Red Sea

Red Sea

by Diane Tullson

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Fourteen-year-old Libby didn't want to go on a year long sailing adventure with her mother and her stepfather, Duncan, and she isn't about to let them forget it. Traveling through the Red Sea, Libby causes them to be late and make a dangerous crossing alone. When modern-day pirates attack, Duncan is killed and Libby's mother is left seriously injured and unconscious.


Fourteen-year-old Libby didn't want to go on a year long sailing adventure with her mother and her stepfather, Duncan, and she isn't about to let them forget it. Traveling through the Red Sea, Libby causes them to be late and make a dangerous crossing alone. When modern-day pirates attack, Duncan is killed and Libby's mother is left seriously injured and unconscious. Libby is left alone on a crippled boat to find safety and help for her mother. Libby must call on all her strength and face some hard truths about herself if she is to survive and reach land. A thrilling tale of one girl's struggle for survival against the elements and her inner demons, Red Sea is adventure writing at its best.

Editorial Reviews

This book is highly reminiscent of Gary Paulsen's Hatchet (Bradbury, 1987/VOYA February 1988), albeit with a girl playing lead instead of a boy and a boat replacing a plane. Fans of that book and its ilk will welcome this one with open arms, however, and it will probably bring more than a few new fans into the genre. Fourteen-year-old Libby, her mother, and her stepfather are waiting in a Djibouti port. As soon as the weather is favorable, they will join a convoy of sailboats making the passage through the Red Sea. The early chapters of this book feel like a typical novel about a disenchanted teenager, with a few hints that the serious sections to come revolve around incest. They do not. Libby and her parents miss the convoy and are sailing alone when modern pirates attack them. Her stepfather is killed, her mother is incapacitated, and the boat is dead in the water at least one hundred miles off course. This seemingly fantastic plot is all too believable in Tullson's hands. Libby's survival and her maturation through the ordeal comprise the bulk of the intriguing novel. It is sure to become a staple in booktalks and a favorite of adventure readers. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2005, Orca, 176p., Trade pb. Ages 12 to 18.
—Beth Karpas
Children's Literature
Libby, fourteen, is stuck. Her mother has divorced her father and remarried an older man named Duncan. Libby disapproves big time and lets her mother know this every chance she gets—from sarcasm to acting out in school. Now Libby, her Mom and new step-dad are on a year-long sailing adventure or, in Libby's eyes, a sentence in which she is taken away from friends and boyfriend and stuck on a sailboat with Mom and Duncan. On the way from Africa to Saudi Arabia, their sailboat becomes separated from other boats with which they are traveling. The solitary Mistaya, hurrying to catch up, is attacked by modern day pirates who destroy the main sail, strip the ship of electronic equipment, render the engine useless, and—even worse—kill Duncan and shoot Libby's mom. Suddenly, Libby is left with her critically injured mother and a ship too damaged to get anywhere fast. How will she navigate the crippled ship in the right direction without going out to sea while trying to keep her mother alive? The family, boyfriend, and school problems become trivial compared to the task ahead—survival. This is a riveting story of danger and self-discovery, a masterfully written book young adult readers will not be able to put down. Frightening and thought-provoking, this book would be best suited to mature readers. Include this book in public, school or classroom library so students experience contemporary adventure-writing at its best. Hand it to a teen for insight as well as contrast to the normal angst of growing up. 2005, Orca Book Publishers, Ages 14 up.
—Judy Crowder
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-Libby, 14, is on a yearlong sailing adventure with her mother and stepfather, Duncan. Stuck in Djibouti awaiting favorable seas, she makes her discontent known to everyone, at every turn. She deliberately dilly-dallies on the day of departure, which causes her boat to miss traveling with the flotilla as planned. Sailing through dangerous waters, Libby's family is alone when pirates attack. Duncan is killed, and her mother is badly wounded. The teen is left to her own devices to survive, nurse her mother, and find the right course to safety. An exciting and suspenseful survival tale.-Elizabeth Fernandez, Brunswick Middle School, Greenwich, CT Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An angry teenager outgrows the pleasures of torturing her mother and stepfather after Red Sea pirates murder the one, severely injure the other and leave her adrift on a small, thoroughly looted boat. Unwilling participant in a year-long family sailing adventure that comes to a sudden, brutally explicit end, Libby finds herself in a desperate struggle-the physical challenges of surviving on the open sea and keeping her seriously wounded mother alive intensified by her own haunting fears and traumatic memories. The author draws on personal experiences sailing small craft for long distances to create an authentic-seeming nautical setting, and though a bit slow off the mark, Libby's first-person, present-tense narrative picks up plenty of speed and force as she weathers days of storm and terror, despair and isolation. Libby starts out a waspish, decidedly unsympathetic character, but comes out of her ordeal with an admirable measure of hard-won self-respect. Fans of Gary Paulsen's Voyage of the Frog (1989) and similar survival adventures will be riveted. (Fiction. YA)
2006 New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age list
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Packed with attitude and action, this is an adventure YA's will rip right through."
"An absolute page-turner."
Puget Sound Council
"A suspense filled tale of survival and coming of age for one 14 year old named Libby. [The elements] ring amazingly true and are told with sensitivity and emotional depth. Lib’s story is one you’re not likely to forget."

Product Details

Orca Book Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 0.50(h) x 7.50(d)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

A dhow, an open wooden boat about the same length as ours, is motoring alongside, thudding into our hull. From the edge of the sun, another boat hurtles toward us.

I sense the gunfire more than hear it.

Duncan is yelling at Mom, "Those are warning shots. Cut the engine! They won't hurt us if we cooperate."

Meet the Author

Diane Tullson has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia and is a trained technical writer. She is a member of the Canadian Children's Book Centre, the Vancouver Children's Literature Roundtable, Children's Writers and Illustrators of British Columbia and the Writers Union of Canada. Diane has been nominated for many awards, including the Stellar Award and the Arthur Ellis Award. Diane lives near Vancouver, British Columbia. For more information, visit

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