The Raft by S.A. Bodeen (Book Review)

August 20, 2012 Book Review, Young Adult 4 ★½

The Raft by S.A. Bodeen (Book Review)The Raft by S.A. Bodeen
Published by Feiwel and Friends on August 21, 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Survival
Pages: 231
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher at ALA
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1.5 Stars
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.

Ever since I read Hatchet by Gary Paulsen in elementary school, I’ve been captivated by survival stories on TV, in movies, and in books. And there are so many of them! Lost, Survivor, Terra Nova, Castaway, On the Island, etc. I could go on and on. It’s fascinating what we humans will do in order to survive. When I saw The Raft on a table at ALA, I knew it had to come home with me. I was excited to be able to devour another exciting story of survival. Sadly, this book was very lackluster for me. I just didn’t enjoy it. I did not find it as believable as I have other versions of a similar story. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. The bulk of the book takes place on a raft in the middle of the ocean. Obviously, not a lot can happen on a raft. That’s exactly what we were given: not a lot. Of course, this is incredibly realistic. I mean… I know that real life is not like Lost, where supernatural things are happening all the time. At the same time, though, I would have enjoyed a little more action to break the monotony of the happenings in the raft. I got bored.

2. The setting = a raft. Let me just say that the author did not paint any images in my mind that looked like anything more exciting than a yellow raft in the middle of a bunch of water. But really, how could she? Sometimes it rained. Sometimes it was sunny. It got dark, and then it got light again. There’s just not a lot you can do with that.

3. Because the book is so short and takes place in such a small amount of time, we don’t get to learn a lot about Robie or Max. And those are really the only two characters that are mentioned across more than 2-3 pages. There’s no character development, no relationship, no nothing.

4. There was a little suspense every now and then, but it could have been so much more. I felt like the writing style took away from the possibilities that could have been there in the more tense moments. The writing was very staccato, with short, blunt sentences and very few long, flowing sentences. Perhaps this was the author’s goal: to create a feeling of tenseness with sequences of multiple short sentences. I just didn’t feel it, though.

5. The emotion did not seem real to me. This book is full of hard and/or sad moments, and Robie was completely flat and emotionless. I mean, if I were there I would have been crying and panicking and really freaking out. She seemed totally removed from the situation, even though she was in the very center of it.

6. A small twist happens that kind of makes you go, “Oh… ok. That kind of makes a little more sense.” But really, I was just ready to be done at that point. I didn’t even like the twist, but at least it made sense. Meh.

Overall, I think the story is what I had a problem with. Not the author. I have a feeling I would enjoy other works of hers. It takes a lot for a survival story to grab me and really pull me in. When I read a book, I’m looking for more than just a picture of reality. I loved the idea, but I was hoping more would be done with the execution to make it exciting, while still being somewhat realistic.

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4 Responses to “The Raft by S.A. Bodeen (Book Review)”

  1. Estelle

    This is the second so-so review I’ve read of this book. I appreciate your honesty. It’s always hard to get through a book when you aren’t entirely invested.

    It seems like such a unique premise and it’s a shame that the experiment didn’t pan out in a way that was engaging and memorable.

    Sometimes I wonder if it’s the author or the editor who had a hand at leaving the story as is? You never really know where things went south.

    Thanks for the review!

  2. Jana

    Braine TS, it was 215 pages. It was relatively short as far as books go, but I do agree that a short story might have been better.

    Estelle, good point about the author’s say in how a book is treated. You’ve definitely got me wondering now. :)

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