When a hurricane strikes the Alabama coastal swamps, it takes real expertise to survive.
Cort, 13, wants his father to pay attention to their bill-paying river-guide work on the Tensaw River delta instead of trying to win back Cort’s mother, who walked out six months ago. The intimidating geography and frightening nature of the swamp are established at the beginning of the book, when Cort and his dad take two hunters up the bayou to kill a gator. A momentary lull in the action follows on their return, and longtime residents of the Gulf Coast will find familiar the calm preparations that are made as Hurricane Igor approaches. Things begin to go wrong when Cort is left alone with the neighbor girls; Liza is Cort’s age, but Francie is 6. Spiraling disaster (including a cottonmouth bite suffered by Liza) leaves Cort feeling completely responsible for the safety and well-being of the three. While Cort relies on what he has learned from his father, it’s clear that it’s not enough. The unusual gathering of desperate animals escaping from high water is critical to the book’s suspense, as are the girls’ helplessness and fear. Though their situation emphasizes Cort’s determination to save them and throws his heroism into relief, it is unfortunate that the story can’t find a way for them to contribute.
Fare to satisfy readers captivated by disaster, particularly outdoor enthusiasts, but less satisfying to aspiring feminists. (Adventure. 9-13)