In Colombia, he meets Myriam Calambás, an indígena, who has lived along the El Furioso all her life. Though she loves its rushing waters, she dreams of leaving to get an education so that she can help her people. Her dreams, and her very survival, are in the balance when she and Rex are caught up in the clash between paramilitaries, working for rich landowners, and guerillas, who are supposed to be protecting the poor.
Pam Withers’ skill at writing about extreme adventures combines with a compelling story about an endangered world and a people struggling for their very right to exist.
“First Descent is a dense, ambitious, challenging read; not only does the author pack in loads of information about the plight of indigenous people in Colombia, who are stuck in the midst of a civil war, she also introduces us to the finer points of elite-level kayaking…. Withers, who has built her reputation as a writer of YA sports adventures, gets things moving quickly enough, and when the action starts to flow, the ride is fast and furious.”
– Quill & Quire
“…The story also started getting more exciting and fast-paced, and by the end I was flipping pages so hard I nearly ripped them a few times – that’s how much I needed to find out what happened next…. Myriam is one of the best heroines I’ve found in a YA novel! She has so many layers and depth and she’s strong without being impossible…. Myriam and her family weren’t tropes or stereotypes; they were fully fleshed-out characters who were just living their lives as best they could. The changes Rex went through were really organic – because he spent time with Myriam’s people but also because he finally got away from his grandfather’s poisonous influence. I think it also helped that he wanted to change himself as well, that he didn’t want to stay the same ignorant person he was in the beginning of the book. Willingness to both listen and to alter your worldview when needed are two important things I think a lot of kids need to learn about, and First Descent tells them that in such a way that it never felt like preaching. Which is great, don’t you think?”
– Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog
“…Kayaking action and encounters with the various military groups are vivid and thrilling.”
– Kirkus Reviews