Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What It Takes to Make It! Survivor Diaries: Overboard! by Terry Lynn Johnson

The boat swayed beneath me. I spread my feet apart to balance and lifted my face into the wind. It was awesome.

"Put this on, Trav." Mom ambushed me with a red and black suit and held it open for me to step into like I was five.

"What? No. What is that?"

"An immersion suit. It's going to be chilly on the water."

"Stacey's not wearing one!" I protested. "Older and wiser," my sister smirked, still texting.

I let Mom do up the zipper. Since my gym accident, Mom had been hovering. "And I hid some animal crackers in the pocket in case you want a snack."

"Mom!" said Stacey. "The last thing Chunky Monkey needs is a snack."

Travis's mom has been all over him like that immersion suit since he had a serious fall from the high bars in gymnastics. But he has to admit that his sister's teasing about his weight gain during his recovery is on target, Still, Trav stubbornly insists on staying on deck with the other tourists when his parents go inside the warm windowed cabin.

It's just an average tourist boat heading out on the ubiquitous whale watch cruise. What could happen?

A lot. A rogue wave capsizes the boat and dumps Travis into the icy waters of the Straits of Juan de Fuca. In the chaotic scene his sister and parents are nowhere in sight, as everyone, despite their life jackets, struggles to stay upright in the wild waters. Nearest to him is Marina, the daughter of the boat's captain. Marina had been assisting her dad in the run-through of the required safety speech when the wave hit, and now she takes over, telling Trav what to do. She's, like, the world's authority on survival at sea. It's like being shipwrecked with Stacey.

But these two unlikely partners turn out to be a lucky pairing for survival. Marina knows a lot about the dangers of cold water immersion and the dangers of hypothermia.

"We have about an hour," Marina gasps. "Our arms are going to stop working. Then we'll probably lose consciousness. Maybe we have more than an hour since we're wearing lots of layers. You'll last longer than me with that suit. And body fat insulates, too." she adds.

Marina's dismal message is that they have less than an hour to save themselves, even if they assume a fetal position and huddle together to conserve body heat, a position that's almost impossible to maintain since they have to struggle just to keep their heads above water and breathe. Marina knows a lot, but she is not much help with a injured arm.

Travis, on the other hand, has gymnastics training and an immersion suit. And after all, when else will being a flexible chunky monkey come in handy?

And it turns out that Trav and Marina have the right stuff, right down to those animal crackers in his pocket and the fire-starting kit Marina has in hers, in Terry Lynn Johnson's forthcoming Overboard! (Survivor Diaries) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017).

Johnson builds plenty of suspense as her unlikely hero fights to save himself--and Marina, who turns out to be prepared with the one weird factoid that gets them rescued. For hot summer afternoons, this one is both a chill thriller and a quick and guaranteed riveting choice for middle readers. especially reluctant ones, and is the first in a proposed series of short survival stories. (Coming next: Avalanche! (Survivor Diaries, just in time with life-saving skills for ski season.) Appended is an author's note which adds more Coast Guard-approved information about survival in frigid waters.

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