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Lost in the River of Grass by Ginny Rorby

Lost in the River of Grass (edition 2012)

by Ginny Rorby

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Title:Lost in the River of Grass
Authors:Ginny Rorby
Info:Carolrhoda Books (2012), Paperback, 255 pages
Collections:Your library

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Lost in the River of Grass by Ginny Rorby



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This was another really good one! I must say I didn't really expect to like it...I hate snakes and creatures that crawl and slither and the thought of hanging out in the Everglade absolutely does me in...well that was a great way for me to begin this story!

Sarah is the poor scholarship kid at an elite high school (her mom is one of the lunch ladies) and everyone knows that she doesn't fit in...everyone but her parents who have done all they can to get her into the school. So, when she decides she wants to go on an overnight science trip to the Everglades they happily let her go.

As soon as the snooty kids arrive at the camp Sarah notices Andy - working on some cars in the parking lot -and a little flirting gets her an invitation to a ride on his airboat the next day. She fakes a stomach ache and the two set off. Ater a stop at a hunting cabin they make an AWFUL discovery...After washing out the boat that morning Andy neglected to replace the plug in the bottom of the boat and it sank!!

So - they are stranded at a hunting camp with nothing but the clothes on their backs and 10+ miles of Everglade swamp between them and civilization. There are tears, yelling, accusations and then cold, hard reality. Sarah is scared - petrified - of everything. Andy is very knowledgable, but he is also a kid who has always had an adult (a semi-abusive) father in charge. Oh yeah, and they had rescued a baby duck when Sarah killed off the mother with the airboat. That is how they start.

When they are rescued three days later they are not the same. Sarah's fear has turned to rock hard determination and Andy's surety has been tempered by reality. But - most of all they are friends.

This is more than a story of survival. It's more than a story of friendship. It's more than a coming of age novel. It's a great combination of all three with a healthy dose of respect for a disappearing spot on our national landscape.

It is also based on a true story...that seems to add to it...from Ginny Rorby's website...

Lost in the River of Grass is based on the true story of my husband’s ill-fated trip to the Everglades with his then girlfriend in his airboat. While they were ‘visiting’ one of the hunting camps in the Everglades, the airboat sank. It took them three days to walk out. I wrote the original story of that ordeal for Fort Lauderdale’s Gulf Coast magazine, published in the late 1990s.

It's a great read for reluctant nature lovers! ( )
  kebets | Nov 1, 2014 |
A read Lost in the River of Grass in 3 days. For the first time in a long while, I enjoyed a story without getting stalled by the writing. As an author, I admit, I am a tough critic when it comes to writing styles, but Rorby's style pleased all my senses, and this tale about two teens stranded in a dangerous nature preserve, had me enthralled as it effortlessly unfolded.

15-year old Andy takes almost 14-year old Sarah on a private tour of the Florida Everglades, but when things go wrong, they find themselves with no way out. They must walk 10 miles through the marshy wetlands of the Glades. Alligators, snakes, spiders.... oh my! Along with Sarah, I was grossed out by the dangerous creatures they encounter, but the wildlife element was fascinating! A sweet crush develops between the two young teens, but in survival mode, they sometimes do selfish things. I appreciated that the author maintained such realism, even down to the detail of physical injuries incurred by the characters. It was described in such a way, I squirmed with discomfort for them.

The conclusion was the only part that wasn't flawless. The speed of the rescue and recovery broke the perfect pace of book. Despite it, this is a worthwhile read. ( )
  SuzanneML | May 26, 2014 |
Quick, heart pumping read. Very well done adventure survival story about a girl who gets stranded in the Everglades with a boy she just met. They have to walk out, on their own, with minimal food and water supply. The 14 year old girl's voice was believable and not one extreme (super angsty teenagery) or the other (emotionless, hard). She rang true to me and I enjoyed her perspective.

( )
  KristySP | Apr 21, 2013 |

This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes

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.

Review: 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:

Age: 12 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Animal attacks
Inappropriate Language: Asses
Substance Use/Abuse: Discussion of marijuana use
( )
  ZabetReading | Mar 31, 2013 |
Recommended Ages: Gr. 7-9

Plot Summary: Sarah is on a weekend field trip to the Everglades with a bunch of popular girls and boys that ignore her. On a hike through the brush, the AABCs let go of the branch they were holding and it slaps Sarah in the face. Fed up, Sarah turns around without telling anyone and goes back to her cabin. She meets a boy who is a little older and he invites her to go on his airboat once he fixes it. Since Andy is being so friendly, Sarah decides to do it. She tells her teacher that she has cramps and will be ready to go by the afternoon, then heads to Andy. They take off. Andy lets Sarah drive for a little bit and when she goes into the brush at fast speeds, she kills one duckling. Deciding to save the dead ducklings sister, Teapot becomes their pet. Continuing their trip, they go to an island of thick trees. It's a hunting cabin, and it's disgusting. After a nice moment between Sarah and Andy where they talk about liking each other, Andy notices the airboat is gone. He forgot to plug the hole after fixing it and it sank. Knowing no one will find them where they are for days, Andy convinces Sarah that the only choice is to hike to the levee. Sarah doesn't want to go because even the first step requires getting in the water with an alligator. But their lack of food and water, plus her unwillingness to stay by herself in the disgusting cabin, convince her to go.

Along their Day Five trip, the face deadly snakes, alligators, birds, and more. They witness a snake attack an alligator just moments after they passed the snake themselves. A deadly snake gets wrapped around Andy's ankle. Ants attack Sarah when she tries to grab a branch filled with them. They sleep in trees, hike during the day and at night.

Eventually, Sarah learns to appreciate the everglades. Her fear dissipates but her hunger remains. Sarah and Andy talk, fight, get closer, and share their first kiss. By the end, Sarah realizes Andy can't swim and has to save him. She announces there is a cabin nearby and he leaves her to rush to the cabin to find food. Scratched and bleeding from the grass, mosquitoes, ants, and her rubber boots, Sarah barely makes it there herself. When she takes off her socks, a layer of her skin comes off with them. The morning after eating the can of chili they found in the cabin, a search helicopter spots Sarah when she reflects light at the pilot.

Setting: Everglades National Park, Florida

Sarah Emerson - 13 y/o, cries a lot
Andy - AKA Andrew Johnson Malone, 15 y/o, doesn't have great grammar, dad is drug dealer and was in jail for most of his childhood
Teapot - pet mallard duckling
Mr. Vickers - Sarah's teacher who convinced her to come on the long weekend field trip, has very red hair, very nice and sympathizes with Sarah as she tries to make friends
Amanda, Amanda, Brittany, Courtney - AKA AABCs,

Recurring Themes: fear, survival, friendship, popularity, first relationship, everglades, karma, what goes around comes around, food chain, life cycle, life and death

Controversial Issues:
pg 78 - "go to hell...You go to hell"
pg 116 - smart ass
pg 160 - damn
pg 161 - "up to our asses in alligators"
pg 178 - "damn it...why damn it?"
pg 182 - "you are sure as hell responsible for getting me in"
pg 187 - "they can afford to have abortions"
pg 192 - Andy says he's smoked weed a couple of times, Sarah tells the story of the one time she was offered weed but realized it wouldn't help her make friends
pg 212 - "to hell with you"

Personal Thoughts: I enjoyed this survival book. It definitely relates to science and might spark more interest in the animals and biome, especially the snake that attacked the alligator. Well written and believable. Nice depth to the characters, especially Andy. Final plot twist was that he couldn't swim and left her behind.

Genre: Action/Adventure - Survival

Pacing: Fast-Medium


Discussion Questions:
Andy drank the rest of the gatorade and left her behind at the end to get to the last cabin. Do you think Sarah should trust him?
pg 242 - Sarah talks to her dad about whether she would have survived without Andy, her fears, and more. Lots of good discussion questions ( )
  pigeonlover | Jan 1, 2013 |
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When two Florida teenagers become stranded on a tiny island in the Everglades, they attempt to walk ten miles through swampland to reach civilization.

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