Southwest Children's  Literature

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Book Review:

What better to captivate teens than a story with dangerous river rafting without a guide? Downriver is a wild, exhilarating and touching ride with elements of adventure, coming of age and survival. Student readers should find themselves captivated by the suspense and danger, and remain committed to the story right to the last page.

Fifteen-year-old Jessie is sent by her father to a wilderness experience for troubled teens. Jessie has experienced problems at home mainly due to an impending move to a new house with a new stepmother. With her on the wilderness trip is an assorted set of misfit teens, such as Star, the superstitious and ethereal girl, Freddy, the contemplative Hopi, Troy, the charismatic leader, and Pug, the congenial muscle head, among others. The renegade teens on the trek wind up stealing rafting gear and taking off down the Grand Canyon, leaving their guide behind.

They encounter significant danger and interpersonal problems along the way, as well as friendship and growth. The teens make hard choices about just how far they are willing to follow someone down the path of rebellion. Jessie learns many things about people and about herself, including that growth can occur through adversity, friendships can make the difference, and following the charismatic leader is often the poorest choice.

Downriver was chosen as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and as one of the ALA's 100 Best of the Best Books of the past 25 years. Winner of the California Young Reader Medal, it was an American Bookseller Pick of the Lists. The events were inspired by the author's own river rafting experiences.

Topical connections include responsibility, trust, survival, courage, Native Americans, and the Grand Canyon.

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