The Raft

The Raf

Author: S.A. Bodeen

Publication: 2012, Feiwel and Friends

Pages: 231

Overall Rating: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]                       

Rating for Action: bth_25_zps13f4f4eb[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_15_zps345ebc9e[1] 

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Robie lives with her parents at a remote research station on Midway Island in the Pacific Ocean.  Every so often, she visits her aunt in Hawaii for a little company, shopping, and movie marathons.  But her aunt is called away on urgent business and, reluctantly, allows Robie to stay on her own.  Freedom soon turns to fear and Robie decides to catch the next supply plane back to Midway.  But the plane crashes in a heavy storm.  The co-pilot, Max, pulls Robie into a life raft.  But the real terror has only just begun.  They’re alone on a raft, in the middle of the ocean, with no water, no way home, and nothing but a bag of Skittles for food.

Age of Main Character: 15

What I Liked the Most: Max may be an adult, but he’s injured and once Robbie’s in the raft he’s unable to provide any real assistance.  Robie is on her own.  She has nothing to rely on but her knowledge of the ocean and her most basic survival instincts.

Bodeen really puts us inside Robie’s head.  We feel her fear, her moments of joy, her boredom, her sense of hopelessness and desolation.  There’s very little dialogue in this book.  Most of the story takes place inside Robie’s head and through the actions she takes to survive.  It’s an intensely personal story that could easily have fallen over the cliff into melodrama.  But Bodeen holds it back, providing just enough action and snippets of dialogue to keep the story humming along, allowing us to live inside Robie’s head without getting sucked down into a whirlpool of self-pity and despair.

What I Liked the Least: This is a small complaint, but there were times when I grew a little frustrated with Robie’s unwillingness to eat the food that was available to her.  I realize that her choice not to eat the dead or dying seals and albatross she came across was part of her basic personality – not disgust at eating raw food, but simple compassion for the animals around her.  And yet, it felt frustrating when she was slowly dying of hunger and thirst, but still refusing to eat.

How Good was the Action? There’s fairly little in the way of action in this survival story.  Other than the crash itself, there are a couple of times when Robie has to escape a shark.  But these scenes are brief.  Robie isn’t fighting a pitched battle with nature, riding out terrible storms and animal attacks.  She’s fighting a war of endurance, to see if she can hold out long enough to get rescued before thirst, hunger, and exposure finally do her in.

How Engaging was the Story?  While there may not be a lot of action in this story, there’s plenty of suspense.  Robie struggles to bail sea water from her leaking raft, get fresh water to drink, catch fish.  When she finally reaches land, her deserted island provides precious little in the way of food and a deadly shark prowls the harbor.  Bodeen plays on Robie’s emotions to maintain a taut atmosphere, and uses short chapters to drive the story forward.

Overall Assessment: The Raft is a powerful story of survival at sea.  While the action is fairly minimal, there’s more than enough tension and uncertainty to keep you turning the pages right up to the very end.

Profanity: None

Sex: None – just a few modest references to nudity

Violence: None

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