I was able to meet Tim Shoemaker at a homeschool convention when I was about ten, and my mother purchased his novel Code of Silence for me. It was one of my favorite novels, and I was excited to review the first two novels in his High Water series, Escape from the Everglades and Every Hidden Thing.
In Escape from the Everglades, Parker Buckman is exploring the Everglades with his friends Angelica (“Jelly”) and Wilson when he is attacked by an alligator and barely survives. As a result, Parker’s father, a park ranger, requests a transfer—anywhere away from the Everglades. The transfer takes much longer than Parker had hoped, and in the meantime, Parker becomes worried about Jelly’s older sister Maria and her relationship with her boyfriend Clayton Kingman, whom Parker believes is dangerous. The crisis occurs when Maria disappears in the Everglades, and Parker is the only one who believes that Maria is still alive.
The beginning of Escape from the Everglades instantly drew me into the story, but overall, the plot pace is a little slow. I feel that the plot involving Maria and Clayton is a little too drawn out. However, I think that taking out some of the story’s details or interactions between Maria and Clayton would detract from the story.
Parker is my favorite character, and several of his attributes stood out to me. Parker struggles with being a man of “integritty,” a word which his grandfather deliberately misspells, claiming that Parker will eventually figure out the hidden meaning. Throughout the novel, Parker is always trying to do what is right and be honest with his parents, even when he makes mistakes. While his friends tease him about being a “boy scout,” I found Parker’s desire to be a man of “integritty” admirable.
Additionally, Parker’s faith is clear throughout the story. While at times he does doubt God, he overall adheres to his faith and is a strong Christian character. I found it interesting that not all of the characters Parker interacts with are Christians. For example, in one scene, Parker’s friend Wilson comments that it doesn’t appear that God is helping Parker very much. “I’m no Christian. I’ll admit it. But I’m not so sure I see the plus for me if I were,” Wilson tells Parker (332). In response, Parker points out his perspective of what Wilson considers to be “bad things” that happened to Parker. At the end of the conversation, Wilson says, “Well when you put it that way…” (333). Thus, this conversation and others like it are relevant for Christian readers to see how they too can stand up for their faith like Parker.
One section in Escape from the Everglades really stood out to me. Towards the end of the novel, Parker’s thoughts aptly summarize the novel’s theme:
“And in that moment, [Parker] knew that moving away from the Everglades wasn’t the answer… He’d believed moving would solve everything. But he was just fooling himself, wasn’t he?
“So many wanted to escape their situation. If I only had a different mom. A different dad. Different brother or sister. If I only had a different face. Body. If I only could get out of this school. If somebody said any one of those things to Parker, he’d have told them they’d never find an escape by going to a new place. And they’d never get more than a temporary escape with more screen time or their music. There were kids at school who were already surrendering to drugs or alcohol to find escape. But like so many things, they were temporary escapes. Dead ends. Parker could have told them that. So why had he believed a change in address would make all the difference for himself?” (311)
The ending is satisfactory and wraps up the story well. I recommend Escape from the Everglades to ages twelve through fourteen, as the back cover of the novel suggests, but high schoolers can enjoy the story as well. I think this is an appropriate audience since the main characters are fourteen. Watch for my review of the sequel, Every Hidden Thing!
Kathryn Dover lives in South Carolina with her family including six cats, a dog, three fish, and many house plants. She attends Presbyterian College, majoring in math with minors in history and creative writing. Kathryn loves writing, especially plays, and she completed and performed her first play, The Sexton, at 14. She is currently serving as a Russell Program Intern in PC’s Marketing and Communications office and writing for the school newspaper, The BlueStocking. She’s not sure what she wants to do as a career, only that she wants to write, but is trusting that God has a plan for her life to use her in a powerful way.