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This is a fantastic young adult survival story that immerses readers immediately into the beauty and danger of the Louisiana swampland.

Seventeen year old Jack Landry loves the Louisiana swampland he has called home all his life, which has led him to become a sought-after tour guide for the Great Atchafalaya Swamp. What begins as a banal excursion with a wealthy New Yorker and his daughter Olivia turns suddenly south when a storm causes their small aircraft to crash unexpectedly into the swamp as far from civilization as one can be. With Olivia breathing but unconscious, Jack must call on all his strength and knowledge to find a way safely out of the swamp without letting any of the many dangerous creatures living there get to them first. But that is only the beginning, and the two unlikely companions are left fighting for survival against the greatest of odds.

This high octane young adult thriller is well written and incorporates excellent pacing, keeping readers’ adrenaline pumping from the very first page. As Jack is a native to the Cajun backcountry of Louisiana, his many life experiences come to the forefront as he and Olivia make their way through the swampland. From knowledge of the many varied flora and fauna found there to tips and tricks he has collected from stories shared with him by his Paw-Paw, Jack is uniquely prepared for the harrowing experience set before him. Cajun French and the general dialect of southern Louisiana are woven elegantly into the narrative, which thoroughly immerses readers in the landscape Jack calls home.

Though much of the story takes place in Jack’s present as he is navigating the Atchafalaya swamp with Olivia in tow, occasional flashbacks give readers insight into exactly how Jack found himself in this position. Each character’s personality is built in pieces, which enhances the overall plot despite Jack being the primary focus. Occasional strong language and mature moments appear within the text, though these are relevant to the context of the story and serve to support the effectiveness of its delivery. Fans of survival stories like Hatchet will appreciate the intensity of this novel as Jack and Olivia dig deep to become the heroes of their own story. This is an excellent addition to library collections for young adult readers.

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I review books for kids, tweens, and teens and blog about them on my website. To date, I have over 500 published reviews. Sign up for my monthly newsletter at to get recommendations straight to your inbox! I primarily write reviews, but will create video reviews upon request.

About the author

Ken Wells grew up in the Louisiana swamps, the second of six sons of an alligator-hunting father and a gumbo-cooking mother. A longtime writer for The Wall Street Journal, he’s authored six novels of the Cajun bayous. He divides his time between Chicago and a log cabin in the wilds of Maine. view profile

Published on January 13, 2023

Published by Koehler Books

60000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Young Adult

Reviewed by