Key treads familiar territory in this tale of boys trying to be men, this time in the dangerous swampy bayous of Mississippi.
Narrator Sam Ford has been beaten badly by two bullies at his new middle school. With a dad who has just become chief of police of Pascagoula, Sam tries to escape his humiliation by blaming his only friend, nerdy white Grover. Hoping to prove himself, Sam heads to the bayous in his new boat, a present for his 13th birthday, looking for a dead body that search and rescue hasn’t been able to find. Instead, Sam finds Davey holed up in a deserted and rotting old fish camp. Given the absence of racial markers, particularly in this Mississippi setting, readers are likely to conclude that both boys are white. With little heed to common sense, Sam begins to help Davey by taking him supplies he's sneaked out of his house. The natural predators of the swamp and backwaters combine with human dilemmas to test the boys and their mix of loyalties. The ways they meet such frightening circumstances as thieves on the run highlight the difference that a loving and supportive family can make, and that has nothing to do with what money can buy. The boys are on the cusp of manhood, and navigating those waters is as treacherous as any swamp.
It's man versus nature as well as man versus man in this tale that will have strong appeal to Key’s fans and adventure lovers. (Adventure. 10-15)