After a rogue wave overturns their whale-watching boat in Washington’s cold coastal waters, two preteens—unsure if their families survived—battle injury and hypothermia to reach dry land.
Only Travis, 11 and white, wears an immersion suit. With her wrist broken and only a lifejacket for protection, Marina, Latina, 12, and the tour operator’s daughter, knows they must conserve body heat and get out of the water, but she’s losing consciousness. Travis manages to get them ashore, which is no easy task for a less-than-fit kid from Ohio who’s given up gymnastics for computer gaming. On land, challenges only mount. With Marina barely breathing, Travis struggles to light a fire, then build a shelter at nightfall. Dawn brings the next issue: how to survive without food or water. There are inner demons to vanquish, too. When Marina spots a treetop nest containing a webcam, Travis must overcome a well-founded fear of heights to reach it. The author, a conservation officer for the province of Ontario, puts her considerable professional and recreational wilderness experiences to creative use. While the series framing device (a journalist interviews young survivors after they return to normal life) acts as a spoiler, the ordeals, thrillingly described, deliver plenty of suspense. Johnson doesn’t give her young heroes special help—no food cache is discovered; no bottled water floats ashore. Orban’s black-and-white illustrations help to break up the text and keep up the pace.
This short, promising series opener contains plenty to inspire young readers while they await Vol. 2: Avalanche! (author’s note, survival tips) (Adventure. 7-10)