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Book Review

Search and Rescue by Colleen Coble has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the "Rock Harbor" series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

After helping her stepmom find a missing child, Emily O'Reilly discovers she has a knack for search and rescue. With her 14th birthday quickly approaching, Emily's parents offer to buy her a search-and-rescue puppy, but only if she can save $150 to help cover the cost. Emily decides to earn the money selling homemade necklaces at Rock Harbor's annual Fall Festival with the help of her best friend, Olivia.

Mrs. Dancer becomes ill and asks Emily to watcher her booth for a short time. Mrs. Dancer, the jeweler who runs the booth, is an inspiration for Emily. In fact, Emily made a necklace based off of one of her designs. When Mrs. Dancer returns, she is pleased to see the girls sold a few pieces until she notices her prized necklace — the sapphire beauty — is gone and has been replaced by Emily's copy.

Emily's dad makes her give the $125 she earned at the festival to Mrs. Dancer and doesn't believe her innocence at first. Emily and Olivia make a list of people they saw at the festival, and her younger brother, Timmy, and his friend Dave join the investigation.

The sheriff confronts Emily. Rachel, a bully, and her friend Gretchen claim to have overheard Emily say she copied Mrs. Dancer's necklace specifically to swap it and make money. Emily denies the accusation.

Emily and Olivia meet Inetta, a reporter who sympathizes with them. Inetta notes the similarity in appearance between Emily and Emily's mother, who is currently in prison. Inetta agrees to check a pawnshop for the girls. Mrs. Dancer claims that the Windigo, a legendary monster who is fabled to come out at night, will act out if the enchanted necklace isn't returned.

When Emily returns home, she learns that her mother will be up for parole in a few months. She remembers how her mom switched her younger brother's insulin medicine, making him very sick, and tried to frame her stepmom, Naomi, for it. Emily also remembers a time when she almost drowned swimming and couldn't get her mother's attention. She thinks of Naomi as more of a parent than her mom.

At school, Emily overhears that the surf team got a recent donation. She signs up as the team manager to investigate the source of the donation.

Inetta tells the girls that Mrs. Dancer's necklace was not sold at the pawnshop. At dinner, Emily meets Uncle Greg's date, a model named Valerie. She recognizes Valerie from the festival, where another man bought her a necklace. Later, Emily and Olivia dig up a photo of Valerie and the other man she was with.

On her first day as team manager, Emily runs into the team captain, Brandon, who helps her carry a heavy basket of towels. As she dries them, she overhears pro surfer Malia talking to the coach about a donation. Malia is donating more money than the necklace is worth, so it is unlikely that she is the thief. With the help of a friend, they learn that the man with Valerie is a modeling agent with a reputation for mishandling money.

Emily runs into Gretchen near the beach and confronts her about what she told the sheriff. Gretchen thought Emily said "swap" when she really said "sell." As Emily continues in her role as manager, she notices her dad and Naomi have been acting different lately. She prays that they aren't planning to divorce.

Emily talks to Bree, her mentor and the head of search and rescue, about her situation. Bree encourages Emily to clarify what's going on with her parents and ask Rachel if she has done anything to hurt her. Later, they get a visit from the sheriff explaining that Rachel has gone missing. They need Naomi's help to search for her. Emily joins the search team, but finds herself lost in the dark as she stumbles down a brambly hill. At the base, she finds Rachel, who got lost in the woods earlier. Emily confronts Rachel, and Rachel admits that she was jealous of Emily and may have spoken out of turn.

Back at home, Emily asks her dad and Naomi why they are acting so strange. To her relief, they are still staying together, but they are worried because Emily's mom is up for parole in a week. Her dad promises to protect her and not let the woman near the house.

Talking to Olivia, Emily realizes that Victoria's agent probably didn't steal the necklace, as it wouldn't cover the cost of his flight from Los Angeles to Rock Harbor. Brandon congratulates Emily on the search, but she is mystified when she finds out that he believes the Windigo really exists.

For her birthday, Naomi and her dad surprise her with a puppy, and Bree offers to train Sherlock, the name she gives him, for free. Meanwhile, Mrs. Dancer offers a $500 reward for the necklace.

Bree is called for another search-and-rescue mission, and Emily offers to go along with her. Brandon tags along. After the team finds the missing girl, Emily notices a glint of blue around Brandon's neck, and realizes it is Mrs. Dancer's missing necklace. He explains that his aunt, Mrs. Dancer, gave it to him after his mother insisted. His aunt said it was stolen in order to sell more jewelry, because the bank was threatening to foreclose on her house. Emily is furious; Brandon apologizes. He insists he will pay her back, if she will keep quiet about it. Emily turns down the offer. She also tells him the necklace isn't really enchanted and that the Windigo doesn't exist. She explains that God will take care of him if he does what's right and turns it in. Brandon tells the sheriff the truth, and the sheriff assures him it won't be held against him. Emily returns home, thankful for her family.

Christian Beliefs

Emily often prays for God's help, including when she searches for a missing friend and looks for leads to prove herself innocent. Her friend also quotes the Bible about reconciliation and encourages Emily to make peace with others. Emily explains her beliefs to a friend — that God helped them find a missing child, not some other force. Idolatry is briefly discussed.

Other Belief Systems

Some of the natives at Rock Harbor believe in a monster called the Windigo. While most people think of it as no more than a scary story, a few people genuinely believe it exists. People say a necklace blessed by tribal leaders will protect them against the Windigo.

Authority Roles

Emily's dad and stepmom love her and do what is best for her. They don't immediately believe she is innocent of stealing the necklace. Emily also has a mentor, who gives her helpful advice. Emily's biological mother is unstable and causes strife in the family. Brandon's aunt frames Emily for the theft and convinces her family to lie.


Emily remembers a time when she almost drowned at the beach and when her brother's insulin was switched, which made him sick.


Girls talk about high school crushes.

Discussion Topics

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Additional Comments/Notes

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Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

7 to 12


Robin Carroll, Colleen Coble






Record Label



Thomas Nelson


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.