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First Descent

3.34  ·  Rating Details  ·  174 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
Montana-born Rex loves nothing more than to take his kayak out on a river, the faster and more powerful the better. When he gets the opportunity to tackle the well-named El Furioso in southwest Colombia, he is thrilled. He anticipates the river’s challenges, but finds himself in a situation where the real danger is human.

In Colombia, he meets Myriam Calambás, an indígena,
Published September 13th 2011 by Tundra Books
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Jan 19, 2013 Khwahish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First Descent by Pam Withers
Done By: Khwahish

Pam Withers’ new novel, First Descent, has captivated readers everywhere into the amazing world of kayaking and a boy whose dream was to keep up his family’s legacy. This book was chosen to be one of the many nominees of the Red Maple Reading program of 2013; with high hopes that it will make it out as this years winner!

At the age of 17, the time comes when many teens are set on thinking about their prosperous future and getting into a good universi
First Descent,
By Sabreena

Pam Withers’ latest novel The First Descent is an exciting action and adventure novel; published in 2011, with Tundra Books. Dealing with extreme sports and recreation this novel inspires young male readers to be more adventurous, outgoing, and to remain fit. Not only males, but stimulates young readers in general to never let anything get between them and their dreams, but to not go overboard with one plan even if it means ruining their claim to fame, as its outcome c
Loony Gryphon
I got this through Goodreads' First Reads. I don't usually read first-person pov stories, but I am finding myself slowly being sucked into the story. I'm only a few chapters in, but I am thoroughly enjoying each page.
Now that I've finished the novel, I can safely say that after the first 50 or so pages that it took to get used to the first-person pov that it is primarily written in, I was quickly entranced by the story and finished reading it within four hours.
Fast-paced with twists and turns th
Apr 13, 2013 Mansi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I loved about this book was the main character Rex had the commitment to go kayaking on the El Furioso, a river rapid that his grandfather once made halfway across. Now he hopes to take on after his grandfather and finish it off for him. But since then things have changed. The people that lived there changed, and now his life is on the line.

What I really didn't like about this book was the fact that Rex changed himself to impress the 'love of his life' Myriam. You should never change yourse
Alex Harran
Feb 23, 2014 Alex Harran added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: a friend
Recommended to Alex by: Mrs. Phillips

The novel First Decent by Pam Withers is an exciting Action filled novel. The author wanted to show her readers that sometimes life isn't as easy as you think it will be. The author proved this concept in many sections of this novel. For example when Rex went to Colombia to Kayak the Furioso River he thought he would go in and kayak the river and be done, but he ran into many problems along the way.

The authors attitude towards the characters was great he explain every character in detail from

Erin Cataldi
Wow! I didn't have high expectations for this novel and I'm not really sure why. Maybe the cover art was a little cheesy for my taste or something. I'm not really sure. But regardless of my initial thoughts, I was definitely proven wrong. It was an awesome read! Kids, kayakers, and thrill seekers alike will love this book. It's informative, adventuresome, full of history, South American culture, and sporting knowledge. It's got something for everyone.

This story follows Rex as he chases his grand
Shelley Daugherty
A riveting and action packed book for all ages! Let me begin by saying I am a novice when it comes to kayaking, but that didn't stop me from thoroughly enjoying this book. The author does a fine job with drawing the reader in and you feel as though you are riding the white waters along with Rex. Another excellent detail of the book is drawing a vivid image of what life is like in a country where you never feel safe, something many of us take for granted.

Rex is tired of living in his grandfather
internat librarian
This is an OK action adventure that never manages to rise above its flaws. There’s a powerful message about guerrillas and paramilitary squads in Colombia. But I don’t care much about any of the people at the heart of the conflict. The kayaking scenes are interesting when they aren’t over-the-top wonky with jargon. I kept trying to build images in my head to match Rex’s white water tactics, but I never felt very clear about what I was supposed to see.

And then there’s Rex himself. I understand t
Elizabeth B
This book has a great plot line and I am a sucker for adventure novels. Anything that helps youth travel somewhere new, face new experiences and/or locales is a wondrful addition to our small town library collection. Books, after all, can take us wherever we want to go, and this book is a prime example. I loved the background descriptions, the chosen setting and the "journey" throughout the book. Rex, the main character, was arrogant and almost impossible to like at the story's beginning but thi ...more
Nicola Mansfield
Reason for Reading: The plot sounded exciting and I am a fan of this publisher, trusting their book selection when I haven't heard of the author before.

Excellent. A superb adventure story that should especially touch reluctant male teen readers. This is an exciting rush of adrenaline from start to finish. 17-year-old Rex is an expert whitewater kayaker taking after his grandfather who raised him along with his mother. His grandfather was well-known in his day for making many first descents down
Main annoyances:

1. The timeline: completely off. Rex is seventeen. His mother was seventeen when she had him, so she is thirty four. Her father returned from Colombia just before she was born, so he was there thirty four (34) years ago. However, Rex makes two references to the fact that his grandfather's trip to Colombia was sixty (60) years ago. Same mistake with Abuela. She was seventeen when she met Rex's grandfather and had his child. That would have to make her fifty one (34 + 17) when the
Chenny Wu
I feel like in my life, I have never read a book so boring. In my opinion, nothing happens in this book. I find it really boring especially when it talks about the conflicts between Indigena and the guerillas, to me that stuff is really boring and not really worth reading or I would've picked up a history book. And nothing exciting ever happens, like they go try to accomplish the river and then the other 2 boys gives up halfway, Rex likes Myriam but she's technically with Alberto. I find nothing ...more
First Descent by Pam Withers (Red Maple 2012-2013)
This book is about a young boy named Rex who is following his grandfather's dream of kayaking one of the world's unconquered wild rivers,El Furioso in Colombia,South America.With some help from friends in Brazil and a tour guide who knows everything about this river,he adventures to soon be the first to conquered it.Did you know that this river is somewhat real in our modern life?But,he faces trouble when the local village that the tour guide c
Rex heads for Columbia to be the first to kayak down the infamous El Furioso River. The river that thwarted his famous grandfather's attempts is his now, for the taking. When he arrives in Columbia he discovers that getting down the river will be more than he bargained for. There is the ongoing conflict between the guerilla soldiers and the para-military soldiers. There is the situation with the indigenous people who are fighting to survive. And of course, what would a YA book be without a hint ...more
Sara Latta
Aug 28, 2011 Sara Latta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pam Withers sets the pace for her latest novel, “First Descent” (Tundra Books, 2011), with the opening sentence: “When the shot rang out, I leapt from my bed, lifted a corner of the bedroom curtain, and looked down on the river bend.” (It’s not what you think.)
At the age of seventeen, Rex Scruggs is already a world champion kayaker. Now, he is determined to descend the Furioso, a Columbian river that lives up to its name. Only one man has ever attempted to kayak the Furioso: his legendary (and
Rex is a white water kayaker, just like his grandfather. However, his grandfather is famous for making the first descents down numerous rivers while Rex hasn't made any yet. There is one river in Columbia that stymied his grandpa and Rex is determined to make it his own success story and prove to himself and his grandfather that he, too, is capable of such feats. Rex sets off to what he thinks will just be a white-water adventure, but he ends up in the middle of a war-torn area with politics tha ...more
Tracy Campbell
I received this book from the Early Reviewers and was quite looking forward to reading it. Unfortunately, I just could not get into it at all. I tried several times and it just didn't capture my interest. On the flip side, I gave it to my friend and she said she enjoyed it. For this reason, I am giving it 3 stars. I will definitely give it another try at a later time.
Mar 03, 2014 Rena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Received this book from Early Reviewers.

Well-written book. The story starts slow and steady then builds up to an exciting end. There is a lot of info regarding the location in Columbia and the way of life of the people there. And the author has so much detail regarding kayaking, it makes me want to try it myself! Teens should like this book.
Mar 22, 2012 Jenn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the one with the main character who just made me want to reach out and smack him upside the head. Honestly, Rex was highly irritating to me for a good portion of this book. For someone so bright and supposedly well-traveled, he was pretty ignorant about the situation between the paramilitary and guerrilla organizations, and the dangers inherent to the First Nations people. I loved the character of Myriam as she struggled between helping her family and village and wanting to go away to un ...more
Cynthia Heinrichs
Some things just didn't click in this story. For one thing, we are told that Rex worships his grandfather, but there is no scene in which I see that connection. In fact, there are so many ways in which Rex doesn't agree with his grandfather that being told Rex adores him is the only way I know it. The math didn't work either. If Rex is 17 and his mother was 17 when he was born then she was born 34 years ago, but later in the story we are told that Gramps was expecting her at the time he was on C ...more
Stone He
This story is about a 17 year old boy named Rex trying to conquer the El Furiso rapids that his grandfather had left of. On his way he encounters Myriam, a girl from a village in the mountain who had a dream to going into university. But in that area of where Rex was going, there was a non-stop conflict between the paramilitary and the guerrilla and the land was filled with land mines. Rex had travel companions but they left early so that Rex had to go in the rapids by himself which was not what ...more
Oct 29, 2011 Naomi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
Rex , a young kayaker from Alberta travels to Columbia to make his first descent kayaking down the El Furioso river to the Magdalena River. He hires a young girl Myriam as his guide. She comes from a family his grandfather used when he tried to kayak down the Magdalena river. Myriam Calambas is an indigena who wants to leave her country and become a reporter to expose how their people are treated. With Rex's help and skills as a kayaker he helps Alberto,a young guerilla and Myriam escape the par ...more
Martha Schwalbe
I read this book right after reading Now is the Time for Running and I thought it would never end. The main character does grow through the course of the book and becomes less self-involved, thank goodness. By the end I felt some compassion for him.
This story is told in two voices, one the self-involved American boy, the other, an Indigena girl from Columbia. Her story was very interesting.
My sister used to kayak and she wanted me to try it. I did but I really love the body surfing better. Since
Dec 20, 2012 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rex wants nothing more than to out do his grandfather with a First Descent of the El Furioso River in Columbia. His bigoted opinions reflect his grandfathers until he experiences the danger of the Columbian Rivers, the guerrillas and the paramilitary attacks on the indigen people.

Although slow to start the pace quickens as the imminent descent of the river develops more dangers. Some concern may exist regarding the bias against first nations and indigen populations. Rex and Myriam's escape rings
I have never been so mad at a main character before. At the beginning of this book, I did not like the main character because I felt he was too easily swayed or influenced by his grandfather's dreams. I wanted him to wake up and realize that his grandfather's dreams weren't necessarily the best dreams for him to take on. I wanted him to stand up for himself and choose a different future. In the end, he did, but not before he makes some very poor decisions. A great story for those who like readin ...more
Aug 07, 2014 Kat rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, canadian
Read this for book club last year but forgot to add it. It was okay, nothing amazing though.
This is an unusual sports adventure that reminds me of Will Hobbs books. Main character Rex is a powerful world-class competitor in white water kayak who is determined to accomplish a first descent of a fictional Colombian river that his grandfather attempted in his youth. Rex is a little headstrong and unwilling to listen to or observe caution on most any front, and finds himself in deep in a country with uncertain politics that threaten his safety. There is a love interest, with a surprise twi ...more
Jul 18, 2011 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Won this on a First Reads Giveaway!

*UPDATE: This is a young adult book and was written as such. I think it is an excellent read for children of that age. For an adult, you want a little more in depth into the issues it discusses and character development, but it wasn't written for an adult so you really can't ask for more than you got. It was a quick paced and interesting story. It kept you engaged and interested in what was happening.
SPOILER: I did enjoy reading it, although I found the whole
Mayaa Higeli
A good book. Nothing that touched me really emotionally honestly. I dont usually like books based on real life events etc. But this book wasnt bad. The plot was interesting I admit. At times it was confusing as it kept changing POV's. It was a slower paced book in my opinion but neber the less good. I liked the chemistry between the two of them, and the shock of the real relationship between them I was not expecting. It had more of a bittersweet ending considering they probably would never see e ...more
Blake Asher
Rex, Myriam, and Alberto finish the river and get to Jocks shop and get to go home. I liked the book because there was a lot of adventure.
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Pam Withers has written 13 sports and adventure novels for teens, all bestsellers and three nominated for awards, plus a biography. Her work includes the Take it to the Extreme series and three other high-action novels. Pam lives in Vancouver, Canada, spends up to a week per month in Seattle, and tours North America extensively.
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