YA Book Review
Author: Will Hobbs
Publisher: Bantam Doubleday Dell. 1991; 204 pages
Source: Thrift shop, years ago
Fifteen-year-old Jessie is on an "outdoor education" program (for kids in trouble), and isn't very happy about it. But when they steal the program's gear and "pirate" a run through the Grand Canyon, it is both better and far worse than she expects. Jessie learns a great deal more, and grows up a lot faster, than her father could have expected.
Okay, Will Hobbs doesn't write great literature. What he does write is exciting stories for and about teens that take place in amazing places, and generally force the characters to do far more than they could ever have believed possible. The river-running scenario for this book does just that. Not only does Jessie find out just how much she can do, she also learns to what extremes some of the other students will go when things take a truly frightening turn.
The writing is fast-paced and smooth. It may be a bit formulaic--I could certainly tell from the beginning which of the boys was trouble, and which worth cultivating--but the book has a clear appeal for kids, and possibly equally for boys and girls. Though I will say that while I liked and could empathize with the female narrator, she definitely struck me as not feeling entirely female (maybe why I liked her--I'm pretty much a tomboy myself and never have exactly thought or acted like a girl). In fact, I think it's one of the nice things about the book--though the female narrator is interested in the boys and is in fact hoping that she can be a couple with one, the book wastes essentially no time on mooning and obsessing about the boys.
I'll give this one a positive mark, both because it was a fun and exciting story and because it ultimately depicts some strong female characters who manage to take charge of their own lives.
I'm not sure what age to say for this. It feels more YA to me, but it is in fact entirely "clean" and has no inappropriate situations (well, aside from the whole premise that a bunch of high-school age kids could or should steal some boats and run the Grand Canyon without permits or any idea what they are doing). For adventure lovers of whatever age, perhaps.
Full Disclosure: I bought my copy of Downriver, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
And now for the obligatory photos, though I have none of the river: I haven't ever been to the bottom of the canyon. But the view from the North Rim:
|North Rim Visitor's Center overlook|
|North Kaibab Trail. Still only a few miles from the top here, in the side canyon. We hiked about 2-3 miles down and back up.|
|Sunset over the canyons.|
For really great reading about the Canyon, see John Wesley Powell's Exploration of the Colorado River and it's Canyons (1874), and Colin Fletcher, The Man Who Walked Through Time (1968). Also, of course, Brighty of the Grand Canyon, by Marguerite Henry (1953) for the youngsters and lovers of equines.