Excerpt from Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Do Not Become Alarmed

by Maile Meloy

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy X
Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2017, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 5, 2018, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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Chapter 7

The kids were engrossed in a complicated game with the three inner tubes, making a kind of raft that they could stand on. It required a great deal of concentration. Hector was the master of the game, and he kept everyone involved. He didn't leave Sebastian and June out, or cut them any slack just because they were little. Penny admired that in him.

He tossed his wet hair off his face. If Hector had been in a band, Penny's friends would have fainted over him. And he could be in a band. He played guitar that well.

He was good at building a structure, too, like her father was. He gave directions, saying, "Hold there. Now, Penny, you sit there. Okay, now you can stand up there. Now Penny, too." He kept the whole three-ring raft stable. She loved hearing him say her name. His stomach was tan and slick above his pink-and-green checked shorts.

Every few minutes, someone would slip or step in the wrong place and everyone would go crashing into the water, screaming with delight, the inner tubes flying. Hector would make sure everyone was safe and afloat, and then they would start rebuilding.

They were so focused that they didn't notice when the tide changed. It must have paused when they were first in the water. Then it reversed, and began to flow inland. No one noticed that the water from the sea was pushing them upstream, slowly at first, and then with surprising force.

When they finally looked up, waterlogged, each with an arm slung over a tube and legs treading the silty water, they were in a different place. There was no beach. There were no mothers on towels. The river was starting to narrow. It was overhung with trees.

Penny squinted against the sun. She was hanging on to an inner tube with Isabel, and had one arm over the smaller tube June and Sebastian were on. Her fingertips were pruned. She felt her little brother's arm slide against hers. Hector and Marcus were on the third tube. Birds sang, and insects buzzed in the trees, but there were no human sounds.

"What do we do?" she asked.

They all looked to Hector, their leader. He frowned. Then he said, "We hold on and kick back." He rolled his long body over and started to kick.

They tried, all six of them, to propel themselves back toward the beach. But it was pointless, the tidal current was too strong. The little ones spluttered, water in their faces.

"Stop!" Hector commanded.

The song of insects and birds returned. On they floated, with the muscle of the river.

"Will they come find us?" Sebastian asked, in a small voice.

"Of course they will," Penny said. And really, what was keeping them? The jungle on the bank looked impenetrable, but their mothers would find a way.

"Should we shout?" Marcus asked.

Together they cried, "Mom," "Mommy," "Mami," in one shrill, beseeching voice. Then they stopped, as if with the swipe of a conductor's wand, and waited in the silence. There was no response. The river swirled around them.

"I have to pee," June said.

"Just go in the water," her brother said.

"I can't."

"Why not?"

"I just can't. What about those fish that swim up the pee, inside you?"

"That's in the Amazon," Marcus said.

"Why couldn't they be here?" June asked.

"Because the Amazon doesn't connect to here," he said.

Penny already had peed, and hoped those fish really weren't in the water. On the left bank, there was a tiny sloping place. They all kicked to it and clambered out.

It felt good to be on solid ground. As soon as they stood up, it seemed clear that they should wait here, rather than traveling ever farther away from their mothers. It had been smart to get out.

Penny helped June find a place to peel down her wet bathing suit, behind a tree. The trees were like something out of fairy tales: thick, twisted, hung with vines. June peed into the damp ground, looking up.

Excerpted from Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy. Copyright © 2017 by Maile Meloy. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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