Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The River

by Gary Paulsen
Random House, 2002

It's been over a year since Brian made his way out of the wilderness, armed only with a hatchet. At first, there was much media interest and curiosity, but now life has returned to normal, though Brian himself has changed, with a greater appreciation for the smallest amenities and pleasures.

Then three men show up at Brian's home with a proposition. They want him to go back into the wilderness with a government psychologist so they can learn how Brian survived - not the mechanical stuff, but the psychological - so they can teach others who might find themselves in similar circumstances.

At first Brian is reluctant, but he changes his mind after giving it some thought. If he can help others survive where they might otherwise die, he has to do it. He and the psychologist, Derek, are flown out to a remote location to begin their journey home. Before their plane lands, Brian knows that they can't take with them all the equipment the government has provided, or they will depend on it for survival, instead of on their wits alone. He insists that they take the barest equipment - a knife - and agrees to bring an emergency radio as well.

Their wilderness experience is off to a satisfying start when lightning strikes their camp. Derek is rendered comatose and the emergency radio destroyed. Brian knows that he has to get Derek to civilization or the man will die of dehydration. He fashions a raft, lashes Derek to it, and sets off down the river in a desparate bid to get help before it's too late.

This book was in the children's section of my library, but I think it more properly belongs in the teen collection, since Brian himself is about 16.

Highly recommended for readers of all ages.