243. First Descent by Pam Withers

First Descent by Pam Withers. (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 265
Ages: 15+
Finished: Nov. 10, 2011
First Published: Sept. 13, 2011
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: YA, adventure, extreme sports,
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

When the shot rang out, I leapt from my bed, lifted a corner of the bedroom curtain, and looked down on the river bend

Acquired: Received a review copy from the publisher.

Reason for Reading: The plot sounded exciting and I am a fan of this publisher, trusting their book selection when I haven't heard of the author before.

Excellent.  A superb adventure story that should especially touch reluctant male teen readers.  This is an exciting rush of adrenaline from start to finish. 17-year-old Rex is an expert whitewater kayaker taking after his grandfather who raised him along with his mother.  His grandfather was well-known in his day for making many first descents down rivers in South America but ended his career when local Natives chased him out of an area of Colombia leaving El Furioso unconquered to this day.  Rex promises to finish his grandfather's legacy by making this his first "first descent" and heads off to Colombia without anyone in his family really understanding the political situation in that area.  Hiring a local indigenous girl, 17-year-old Myriam, to be his guide he finds himself not only facing man vs. nature as he shoots extreme rapids but man vs man when he learns the plight of the indigena out in the wilderness caught between the paramilitary and guerrilla soldiers.

An eye-opening story of culture clashes and world social problems that do not make headline news but should be known and addressed globally.  Interesting characters that are real and relatable to teens.  I found both Rex and Myriam to be likable teens, flawed and each developed throughout the story.  I'm not usually into this type of "political situation" novel but am very fond of outdoor adventure/survival stories and found the political situation only enhanced the exhilaration of the plot.  A great library pick!


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