Hobbs, Will. Downriver. New York: Atheneum, 1991.
This story is told in first person by Jessie. Jessie's dad has put her in a wilderness therapy program because he believes she is hanging out with the wrong kind of friends. Jessie is angry with her dad. Angry that he has a girlfriend named Madeline after her mom has died. Jessie, Troy, Adam, Star, Freddy, Pug and Rita become friends in this therapy program. They call themselves the Hoods in the Woods. Al is their counselor. Jessie and her friends ditch Al to go on an adventure on their own down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. They have many adventures and brushes with death. The five friends escape from Troy and Pug when they believe that the two tried to kill Freddy by placing a poisonous scorpion in his sleeping bag. The five friends are rescued. Pug is caught, but Troy evades the police until he is finally caught in Malibu. In the end Star moves in with Jessie, her dad and Madeline. They live together as a family.
This adventure story is told in first person by Jessie. She is in a wilderness therapy program with other children who are having problems with their families. The story is about friendship and leadership. These young children form a bond with each other and ditch their guide to raft down the Colorado river on their own without an adult. Adults do not understand them at all. There is a struggle to become a leader of this group, but they discover they have to work together to survive. The theme appears to be surviving teenage years. Learning to make decisions and the consequences that come with those decisions. When you are young you tend to see everything in extremes. All of these teenage characters suffer from this. At the beginning of the book all of the kids lives are headed downhill or "downriver". The characters all appear so real and believable. Each one is dealing with their own unique problems. School Library Journal states "that it is filled with nail biting suspense." This is definitely experienced when the reader worries that Freddy will die from the scorpion. The setting builds to the excitement of this novel. Even if you have never white water rafted you are able to experience what it would be like to face massive rapids. You discover that nature is a challenge if you are alone, but it is bearable with friends. They learn their problems are not so negative and much more bearable since they have made lasting friendships.This story would have universal appeal.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
This story was action packed. There were challenges the entire way throughout the book. I did not see any weaknesses. The unique characters were the strength. The characters were believable and interesting. It is a strong story about friendship and survival.
- An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
- ALA YALSA Best Books for Young Adults
A student Brad Vonbargen states "he enjoyed this book because of the detail to all the wondrous things you can see in the Grand Canyon." May 6, 2005