Saturday, April 10, 2010

Three Rivers Rising Review

Three Rivers Rising by Jame Richards
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release date: April 13, 2010
Source: Publisher

Sixteen-Year-Old Celstia spends every summer with her family at the elite resort at Lake Conemaugh, a shimmering Allegheny Mountain reservoir held in place by an earthen dam. Tired of the society crowd, Celestia prefers to swim and fish with Peter, the hotel’s hired boy. It’s a friendship she must keep secret, and when companionship turns to romance, it’s a love that could get Celestia disowned. These affairs of the heart become all the more wrenching on a single, tragic day in May, 1889. After days of heavy rain, the dam fails, unleashing 20 million tons of water onto Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in the valley below. The town where Peter lives with his father. The town where Celestia has just arrived to join him. This searing novel in poems explores a cross-class romance—and a tragic event in U. S. history.


I was drawn in by Richards beautiful verse. Her writing style was fabulous and the plot was one I’d never read. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, but I’ve never read about the Johnstown Flood. Richards did a great job of tying historical facts in with a variety of sub plots. There were five different narrators which may seem like a lot, but it worked out well. The reader got to see different peoples perspectives of the flood and how their stories tied together. The romance was sweet and honest. Celestia and Peter’s relationship was believable and tugged on the readers heartstrings. When things got tough, I was anxious to find out what would happened next and Three Rivers Rising drew out a variety of emotions from me while reading. The first half of the novel let Celestia and Peter’s relationship develop as well as let the reader better understand all the characters. By the time the flood came I was on the edge of my seat, hoping my favorite characters would come out unscathed. It was a harrowing experience for the reader and I could picture everything that was happening. In the writing style of Ellen Hopkins and Lisa Schroeder, Jame Richards wrote an emotional and powerful debut that combines class tensions, family strife, love, friendship, disease, disaster, hope, death, love, and more. The ending was satisfying but I would love to read more about Celestia and Peter, as well as the other characters, in a future novel, but I think their stories are complete.

To elaborate, the multiple narrations were by Maura, Kate, Celestia, Peter, and Whitcomb. Maura was a young mother struggling to raise four children while her husband worked on the railroad. Her struggles to escape the flood with her family is empowering and awe-inspiring. Kate, a tough nurse, who has already faced death, is a character that meets up with all the other narrators at some point and even saves their lives. Celestia, a “rich” girl struggling to make her family understand her love for the “hired” boy is a great character. She doesn’t care about social class and wants her family to be together more than anything else. Peter, the love interest, is another great character- I loved him myself by the end. He was perfect for Celestia and their romance was well developed and real. Whitcomb, the final narrator, is Celestia’s father. He doesn’t have a huge role until the end, but his heartbreaking narration changes readers opinions of him from the beginning drastically. All in all, Richards did a terrific job of keeping the narrations easy to follow and developed each character perfectly. The reader gets very attached to the characters and they’ll definitely remain in my head for a long time.

The plot was extremely unique. I have never heard of the Johnstown Flood, much less read about it. Richards introduces readers to a time in our countries history rarely mentioned. Although the cast of characters are mainly fictional, she does portray this time in history quite accurately. Three Rivers Rising will attract both reluctant and veteran readers and I am definitely on the Jame Richards bandwagon now, I can’t wait to read more of her novels.

Keep in mind this was written in verse, one of my favorite writing styles and it perfectly fit this novel. The verse style helped capture emotions of the characters even more and made it a fast read. It wasn’t only a quick read because of the verse style, but also because it was hard to put down. By the time the story was going hour by hour on the day of the flood I couldn’t stop reading. I’ve already passed this book onto my mom, and will be sure to recommend it to my friends when it’s released. This is definitely one I’ll be picking up a finished copy of to add to my collection. A debut novel I wasn’t sure about at first, Three Rivers Rising surpassed all my expectations and more.

Overall: 5 out of 5 stars


  1. Fantastic review, Kelsey! I have this book on my to-read list because I HAVE read extensively about the Johnstown Flood. (I'm a Pennsylvanian, and this is our biggest historical disaster.) I even have half an outline for a novel I never wrote lurking somewhere on my computer.

    Your review makes me want to read this all the more. I will definitely pick it up.

    PS: I don't find the cover attractive at all, though.

  2. I read this book a while back and agree with your review, I really enjoyed it.

  3. Thanks for your thoughtful review!


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