Monday, July 9, 2012

Book Review: Lost in the River of Grass by Ginny Rorby

Title: Lost in the River of Grass
Author: Ginny Rorby
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Release Date: Feb 9, 2011
Rating: 5/5

Cover Impressions:
Not a huge fan of the cover.  Don't get me wrong, the alligator on a whole new level of scary, but there is something with the title and the font that makes this feel like a homemade job.

The Gist:
Feeling like an outcast on a school trip to the Everglades, Sarah fakes sick in order to explore the swamp with Andy, a local boy.  When a simple mistake leaves them stranded, they begin the harrowing trek back to civilization, facing the Everglades in all their danger and splendor.

I was immensely surprised by this novel.  In fact, I read it in a day.  Were it not for the disruptions of my 9 mth old, I probably would have read it in one sitting without so much as a bathroom break.

Rorby has created characters that are undeniably realistic.  They are flawed, impatient and self-absorbed in a way that only teenagers can be.  At the beginning of the book, Sarah is painfully lonely and attempts to simply keep her head down and avoid the mockery of her classmates.  She is afraid of everything in the swamp and whines incessantly.  By the end, however, she has proven her bravery time and time again and come to appreciate the beauty of the swamp (despite the fact that nearly everything in it wanted to eat her!).  Andy has lived his whole life in the Everglades.  He is very typical of any teenage boy - risking the ire of his parents in order to impress a pretty girl.  Despite his willingness to take charge, he falters several times and leaves Sarah certain that she must orchestrate her own rescue.

The characters are well written, but where Rorby really shines is in the plot and the pacing.  This is a novel that never left me bored.  The moments where Sarah and Andy came into (far too close) contact with the wildlife of the Everglades were always tense and often terrifying.  To say that I was absorbed in the story would be an understatement as I found myself holding my breath for many of these encounters and praying that the characters (and Teapot) would come out unscathed. 


One of the issues that I had at the beginning of the novel was that no real physical description of Sarah was provided.  Without these details, I was forced to pull her image together on my own.  Towards the end of the novel, however, it is revealed that Sarah is black and that clearly, this information was withheld on purpose.  This information sheds new light onto several scenes from earlier in the book and elevates this novel from one that merely celebrates two young people's strength and instinct to survive, to one that challenges preconceptions and forces the reader to examine their own worldview. 

Lost in the River of Grass should appeal to both male and female teen readers (and adults of course) and would provide an excellent jumping off point for discussion of bias, presumption and how new information can change how a story is viewed.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

12 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Animal attacks
Inappropriate Language: Asses
Substance Use/Abuse:  Discussion of marijuana use


Post a Comment