Contemporary Young Adult
Feiwel & Friends
Available August 21st
Received from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)Robie is an experienced traveler. She’s taken the flight from Honolulu to the Midway Atoll, a group of Pacific islands where her parents live, many times. When she has to get to Midway in a hurry after a visit with her aunt in Hawaii, she gets on the next cargo flight at the last minute. She knows the pilot, but on this flight, there’s a new co-pilot named Max. All systems are go until a storm hits during the flight. The only passenger, Robie doesn’t panic until the engine suddenly cuts out and Max shouts at her to put on a life jacket. They are over miles of Pacific Ocean. She sees Max struggle with a raft.
And then . . . she’s in the water. Fighting for her life. Max pulls her onto the raft, and that’s when the real terror begins. They have no water. Their only food is a bag of Skittles. There are sharks. There is an island. But there’s no sign of help on the way.
MY THOUGHTSThe Raft is a lightning-quick read, one of those stories that thrusts us into a character’s world for a few short moments before releasing us, and while a deep involvement with characters or story remains elusive, our attention is held throughout nonetheless. Extremely short chapters help give the story a more desperate feel, a quick two and three pages holding us riveted before we reach a stopping point, our fingers twitching with anticipation to see what lies beyond the next sheet of paper. Even when there are lulls in Robie’s day–times when she’s doing nothing but floating in a wide expanse of water in a tiny raft–there’s an addictive tension, the possibility of something big happening just around the bend teasing us as we will Robie to hold on a little bit longer.
One of the more interesting aspects of this story is Robie’s lack of survival skills. Many times with survival stories, the protagonist, upon finding themselves in a precarious situation, magically knows how to hunt or forage for non-poisonous edible foliage, thereby ensuring their survival. Robie is as clueless as most of us would be, a short guide saved from the wreckage of her plane giving her common sense tips such as “don’t drink saltwater” all she has to guide her as she faces miles of endless ocean. She does have solid avian knowledge from time spent with her parents and other researchers, but otherwise she’s completely vulnerable, setting our nerves all the more on edge as we can so easily see ourselves struggling just as she does.
While Robie is someone whose shoes we can seamlessly slide into, we never really get to know her as a person before we shut the back cover on our brief stint as her invisible companions. This is simply a story of her ordeal, and we never get the opportunity to dive deeper or claw our way through the layers that would make her a standout character in our minds. Her treatment of Max during their time in the raft is often frustrating, as she succeeds in catching food and collecting rainwater to drink yet never wakes him from his near-constant unconscious state to share her spoils. She appears callous and selfish, more interested in her own survival than in making sure they are both taken care of, and though we are provided an explanation for her seeming indifference by the end, her behavior while reading is a bit off-putting.
Overall, The Raft is fast-paced and easily read in a single sitting, our time with Robie not overly emotional or soul-scarring, allowing us to easily move on to the next story without much reflection on what we’ve read, but it is certainly successful in entertaining us for a short 230 pages.