________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 13 . . . . November 29, 2013


Dead in the Water. (Orca Sports).

Robin Stevenson.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2008.
169 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-55143-962-4.

Grades 7-12 / Ages 12-17.

Review by Kay Weisman.

*** /4



The sky and the sea were almost the same shade of gray, and I wasn't sure which was wetter. Spray from the waves flew into the cockpit, cold and salty, and rain pelted down viciously from above. I shivered and gripped the wheel more tightly. Across the cockpit, the others were a blur of brightly colored Gore-Tex. I couldn't see a thing through my glasses.

The bow of the boat lifted on a huge wave and plunged down, landing with a shuddering crash. It felt like hitting cement. At least cement would be dry, I thought, as a sheet of icy water slapped the side of my head. My shoulders ached from hanging onto the wheel as ten tons of speeding fiberglass fought against me, trying to turn into the wind. We were heeled way over to one side, the starboard rail almost buried in the water. The sails needed to be adjusted, but no one was volunteering. I gritted my teeth and tried to ignore the queasiness in my stomach. If I threw up now, the others would never let me live it down.

Then Patrick yelled, "Man overboard!"

Simon Drake, a recent secondary school graduate with dreams of becoming a delivery skipper, has signed up for an intermediate cruising course in the hopes that the certificate he earns will help him get a job on a sailing vessel. His crewmates include brothers Joey and Blair, who come from a wealthy family; Olivia, who is taking the course only because her father insists; and Patrick, their instructor. On their first night out, Simon and Olivia do some exploring and encounter two unfriendly sailors. Olivia becomes convinced the pair are illegally catching abalone. Although warned by Patrick to stay away from the other boat, the two go snooping again the following night and discover both abalone shells and live catch. When Patrick appears a few minutes later, blowing their cover, it becomes clear that he is a part of the smuggling ring as well, and that Simon and Olivia's lives are in danger.

      Stevenson delivers a fast-paced nautical adventure filled with intricate sailing maneuvers and realistic depictions of stormy seas. Simon, whose sailing skills are strong but who feels like an outsider in the yachting crowd, matures through his experiences-learning not to stereotype (Joey and Blair may be rich, but they are not stupid or lazy) and to work with others as a team in order to achieve his goals. Details of Vancouver Island and information about the abalone trade will also pique readers' interests. Give Dead in the Water to would-be mariners looking for a satisfying (if slightly formulaic) adventure.


Kay Weisman, a long time librarian and reviewer, now writes "Information Matters" for School Library Monthly and works as a youth librarian at West Vancouver Memorial Library.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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