River's Reach

Coming of Age Amid the Fish War

Young Adult - Coming of Age
326 Pages
Reviewed on 08/12/2023
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Author Biography

After teaching sixth grade for twenty years, I found the time and motivation to write this story, which I’d been thinking about for years. I previously held positions in mental health and legal services and worked with developmentally disabled people.

My fishing experience and interest in declining salmon populations flesh out the characters’ connections with the river. In whole, I drift along with the river current much like Alex does. My second MG/YA historical novel is currently underway.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Munir Muhammad for Readers' Favorite

River's Reach is a captivating novel by David Scott Richardson that depicts the coming-of-age journey of a high school student named Alex Haugen amidst the fish conflicts in the Pacific Northwest. He faces a difficult decision between his passion for fishing and his responsibility to his father, who works as a game warden. Alex's father is enforcing rules about fishing that the nearby tribes don't like. As Alex keeps learning about the fish wars' history, he starts to doubt his own thoughts about protecting nature and the rights of indigenous groups. He also becomes close friends with Charlie McCallister, a young Nisqually Indian who was arrested by Alex's dad for fishing illegally. Alex learns to see things in a new way because of his friend Charlie. He understands how important it is to preserve tribal culture and that it is necessary to achieve fairness for the environment. As Alex delves deeper into the issue, he realizes how little he truly knows about the complexities of the fishing controversy. Through his journey of self-discovery and quest for understanding, Alex finds the courage to stand apart.

The novel touches on themes of heritage, cultural conflict, social justice, and personal growth. It is a thought-provoking and engaging tale suitable for middle-grade, young adult readers, and those young at heart. The narrative, the characters, and the overall novel add a layer of authenticity to the characters' experiences. River's Reach is beautifully crafted to combine history and personal growth, keeping readers hooked with its intriguing plot and relatable characters. David Scott Richardson encourages readers to question preconceived notions, stand up for their beliefs, and embrace understanding and compassion amid complex and contentious situations. River's Reach is a good book that makes you think about who you are, different cultures, and taking care of the environment.

Grant Leishman

River's Reach: Coming of Age amid the Fish War by David Scott Richardson is built around the actual events in Washington State during the 1960s as fish stocks declined, and many blamed the decline on fishing with nets, as practiced by the Nisqually Native Americans, as well as other tribes in the region. The state had declared net fishing in the rivers illegal. However, Native Americans argued it was part of their treaty rights and continued to do so in the face of local sport fishermen's opposition and local law enforcement. Alex Haugen was a high school senior who had fished the river all his life and loved the Nisqually River passionately. His father was an enforcement officer with the Washington State Game Office, which gave him a unique insight into the efforts to stop the decline in fish stocks. He knew little of the Native American claims and no Native Americans personally. His desire to understand what led up to the current standoff between the Nisqually and the state would bring him into direct conflict with his father and his colleagues. He learns that the local Nisqually tribe may well have received a raw deal on fishing rights from Washington State. Alex must weigh his increasing political awareness and understanding of the rights and wrongs of the "Fish War" against the possibility of permanently damaging his sometimes-fragile relationship with his father.

Author David Scott Richardson has picked a volatile period of American history to set this battle between the state and Native American rights and the coming-of-age of a politically and environmentally conscious teenager. Alex was genuinely caring, and I particularly appreciated his willingness to embrace the unknown and not fear it. Many of his contemporaries would blame the Native American net fishing for the decline in fish stocks without considering that this was a multi-faceted problem that needed to be addressed on many fronts. Alex's courage in standing up for his beliefs, even in the face of his father's employment by the Game Office, took real character plus required research and soul searching, both of which Alex was prepared to do. I appreciated that Alex took the time to meet, befriend, and try to understand the individuals who made up the Nisqually tribe rather than just generalizing them. River's Reach is a thoughtful, easy-to-read, and challenging novel that makes the reader question their own beliefs and prejudices, which, for me, is a mark of an excellent book. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and can highly recommend it.

Frank Mutuma

Many things were going on, including the Vietnam War, which made Alex worry about the possibility of the draft. Back at home, antiwar protests were happening, as were protests about equal voting rights. In his hometown, a fishing war got out of hand between the locals and the Native Americans, who believed the Point Elliot and Medicine Creek treaties gave them fishing rights. What did Governor Stevens promise, and couldn't the State Department and the Nisqually tribe come to a compromise? To understand the Nisqually, Alex and Sid join the journalism club. How will this turn out, and will Charlie discover who was behind his arrest? Get a copy of River's Reach by David Scott Richardson to find out.

With ongoing global issues such as climate change and rising intolerance, it's easy for young people to feel helpless, especially in areas where governments don't care. River's Reach by David Scott Richardson shows how even young people can contribute to the good fight where they are with what they have. I loved the themes covered by this book, such as diversity, tolerance, climate issues, and our moral responsibility to do the right thing. The book is thought-provoking and got me thinking about the role of the media in shaping public opinion and possible biases. As said in the book, what is happening today has roots in the past, and I hope the story triggers young people to read further and investigate for truths that might be hidden. The characters are well-developed, and David uses them effectively to pass on the intended message.