This YA story is about one teen conquering a 265 mile paddling race called the Texas River Odyssey, but it’s also about relationships, forgiveness, pride, and perseverance. IN THE SAME BOAT is a phrase we’ve heard a lot over the last year and a half, but this novel makes it literal. Sadie Scofield was brought up to do difficult things and stay true to the family tradition of finishing the annual race through “constant forward motion.” However, the river adventure is just one challenge Sadie has to overcome, and it might depend on the more difficult task of healing the rift between her former best friend, Cully.
The vivid descriptions of the physical effects of paddling for almost 300 miles put readers in the canoe with the teens. Between the blisters, muscle cramps, hunger, and stomach upheaval, readers will feel included in the good, the bad, and the very ugly of river racing. The hallucinations due to exertion, lack of sleep, and canoeing at night are at once entertaining and ominous. The monologue in Sadie’s head about Cully, her family, her friends, is realistic and ensures that readers find her relatable and likable. Her memories of her tree house, egg shells in a bag of cookies, dumping ice cream on Cully’s dad, and the looming admiration for her father are laced with relatable emotions and raw feelings of longing.
Technical terms related to river boating will become familiar by the end of the story. And while the novel doesn’t have a fairy-tale ending, the two-and-a-half days provide a solid and believable arc for several characters. IN THE SAME BOAT is well-paced and brightly developed. Recommended for 12 and up.