Who are these guys, anyway? I’ve got two names, Ed and Dale. But what good is that? What are they doing out here, dumping this stuff? What is all this? Illegal, whatever it is. Illegal enough to risk getting Mike killed so they don’t get caught. I need to be careful. I don’t know what they’ll do if they find me, but I know it won’t be good.
The big one lets out an angry “Bah!” and starts heading back to the boat. As he passes me, I manage to take a picture without him noticing. I look at my screen. It’s a great shot. Clear.. There’s no denying his face. Now I just need one of Ed.
Ed starts wheeling an empty barrel. Now’s my chance. I crawl out from my hiding spot and wait for Ed to stop moving. He leaves the barrel by a stump and takes off his hat, wiping his forehead. Snap.
Behind me, Dale stands up in the boat. He points directly at me.
“Ed! There’s another one!”
Ed spots me, and my stomach leaps into my throat.
I tear off into the trees, the men shouting behind me.
Mike, my brain whispers. They chased Mike. And now he’s missing.
And now they’re after me.
For years, Camp Clearwater, a river kayaking camp, has been the highlight of the summer for friends, Nate, Owen and Mercy, all now age 16. Each summer, they wear a different coloured shirt as they pass their water skills, and, although each year has been great, Nate is looking forward to this year as the friends will be wearing red shirts, and their test will be to guide their kayaks through the Nebula, one of the toughest areas on the Starling river because of its boiling water, hidden rocks, and boat-sucking whirlpools. Nate’s ultimate goal is to wear a white shirt, like Mike, his favourite counsellor.
Further down the Starling is the Black Hole, a class-five stretch of violent water that no one has attempted, no one that is apart from Nate who, as an 11-year-old, fell out of a boat and was swept into the churning maelstrom. He survived, but the staff at the camp know to go easy on him and to not push as he was still working through remaining fears.
These fears and Nate’s resilience are put to the test when they arrive at camp this summer to find Mike has gone missing and is assumed drowned after he tried to navigate the Black Hole. None of this makes sense to Nate, and, after he stumbles upon some ‘green slime ponds’, the same ones Mike’s girlfriend says he was concerned about, Nate knows something is wrong. He overhears two thugs who, while they’re dumping barrels of toxic waste, admit they’d chased Mike into the water, forcing him to flee in his kayak toward the Black Hole.
Mike has been missing for a week, but Nate is convinced he is still alive. Reluctantly at first, but with the conviction of true friendship, Owen and Mercy join Nate on the river to search for Mike, a search that means their willingly tackling the Black Hole. They each survey the water and choose their line through the Black Hole. Nate’s run attempt goes horribly wrong, and he knows he is trouble until a pair of arms reach down and snatch him up to the surface. It is Mike; he’s alive! Suffering from a broken leg, Mike was unable to work his way back to camp, and the canopy of overhanging branches made it impossible for him to be found from the air. It becomes apparent that Camp Clearwater is in dire financial trouble and that Mr. Evans, the camp’s leader, had accepted bribes to keep silent about the toxic waste dumping. With Mike safely home, the wrongdoers are brought to justice, and camp supporters rally to save Camp Clearwater.
Author M. J. McIsaac has written an exciting page-turner jam-packed with river kayaking knowledge and adventure. The friendship between Nate, Owen and Mercy is unshakeable, and readers will appreciate how sometimes you need to step out of your comfort zone to achieve something that is important.
Boil Line, a novel in the “Orca Sports” series, is geared to reading levels from grade 2.0 to 4.5 and interest level, ages 10+. Readers will have success in completing the book, and it will satisfy their thirst for the thrill of adventure and achievement.
M. J. McIsaac is the author of several books for young readers, including Underhand, another title in the “Orca Sports” series.
Libby McKeever is a retired Youth Services Librarian from Whistler, British Columbia.