Every year I show True Grit (2010) to my high school sophomores during our unit on the hero. It is a very popular activity. Charles Portis is from our state, and we are only an hour away from Fort Smith and Oklahoma where the story takes place, so it is a setting our students connect with. There is even an old man up on the mountain outside of our town named Rooster Cogburn, which I always have to explain is just a coincidence. They rarely believe me.
Every year, kids want to read the book and then they ask me what to read next. My answer? Ride the River by Louis L’Amour. It is the fifth in the Sacketts series, but it can absolutely stand alone. It has a strong, determined, and smart female protagonist, and she is a delight to read. She could take on Katniss Everdeen and win. This country girl can survive!
In Ride the River, Louis L’Amour spins the tale of a young woman who has to protect her family fortune from a murderous thief and teach him what it means to be a Sackett. Sixteen-year-old Echo Sackett had never been far from her Tennessee home—until she made the long trek to Philadelphia to collect an inheritance. Echo could take care of herself as well as any Sackett man, but James White, a sharp city lawyer, figured that cheating the money from the young girl would be like taking candy from a baby. If he couldn’t hoodwink Echo out of the cash, he’d just steal it from her outright. And if she put up a fight? There were plenty of accidents that could happen to a country girl on her first trip to the big city.
What? You haven’t read True Grit?!
Mattie Ross, 14, from Dardanelle, Arkansas, narrates half a century later, her trip in the winter of 1870s, to avenge the murder of her father. She convinces one-eyed “Rooster” Cogburn, the meanest available U.S. Marshall, to tag along, while she outdickers and outmaneuvers the hard-bitten types in her path.