Sarah wasn’t sure what she was looking for when she signed up for a class trip to the Florida Everglades. An opportunity to finally make some friends at the new school where she’s an unpopular scholarship student? The possibility of learning more from her favorite teacher? A chance to try her hand at photography with her dad’s fancy camera? No matter what she was seeking originally, Sarah finds much more than she bargained for when, in an attempt to escape her superficial cabin mates, she fakes an illness and instead heads out on an airboat captained by Andy, a boy she’s just met.
When the airboat capsizes, however, Sarah must overcome her fears of snakes, spiders, gators and the zillion other dangers that lurk just below the surface of the scummy water or hide amid the razor-sharp sawgrass. Walking 10 miles back to land may not seem like such a big deal, but it sure is when those 10 miles are through knee-high muck, when you don’t have food or drinkable water, when mosquitoes constantly pester you and lightning storms threaten.
Andy seems like the consummate swamp rat, skilled and confident, chiding Sarah for her city girl’s fears. But as they spend more time together, Sarah discovers that she has her own skills and strengths, too—ones that may become necessary to keep them both alive.
Some readers might be puzzled to discover in the novel’s final pages that the main characters’ races (which have until then been discussed only obliquely and somewhat inconsistently) precipitate one of the novel’s major conflicts; after the kind of life-or-death moments Sarah and Andy have already shared, this drama seems somewhat imposed and unnecessary.
Like many adventure and survival novels for teens, Lost in the River of Grass is also a coming-of-age story, as Sarah gains immense knowledge about herself and her capabilities in a short, intense time period. In addition to outlining this profound personal growth, author Ginny Rorby also introduces readers to the bizarre, almost otherworldly environment of the Everglades, a place readers may even beg to visit—but not without a big can of bug spray and some sturdy waterproof shoes.