Wednesday, June 05, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: THE RAFT by S.A. Bodeen



THE RAFT

BY: S. A. Bodeen


PUBLISHED: August 21, 2012 by Feiwel & Friends
GENRES: YA • Survival • Contemporary Fiction • Suspense / Thriller • Action
SOURCE: Library copy

 Technically 3.8 rounded to 4

OVERVIEW:
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.

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I think many underrate this book. Personally, I found this book to be engaging, gritty and fascinating. One of my worst fears is being a plane crash in the middle of an ocean. That fear made reading this difficult as it's not something I want to think about. But I faced my fears and plunged ahead and I'm I glad I did. This was a great study on how real people would deal with real disasters. 

Some people found Robbie to be complete air headed and intolerably whinny. Yes, I agree she started off sheltered, self-centered and bratty. Many times over she acted brainless. Other times she showed off her intelligence. However, I would point out this girl was barely fifteen. How would you have handled it? Really? I felt great pity for her.



If that had been me hurdling down from the sky, crash landing and drifting in a dingy with no food and water, I would be rocking myself in la la land. (If I had my kids with me, I would keep it together for them though... cause that's what moms should do.)



Robbie pre-crash was hard on the nerves. I will admit there were times throughout the book that she was giving me a headache. When she refused her life jacket and yelled at Max for helping her I thought I was having an aneurism. I had to stop and breathe.



Some of her actions were so lacking in common sense that I threw the book done yelling, "Seriously?" (My husband was wearing ear plugs... good thing.) I just wanted to smack her over the head a few times to knock some sense into her. She needed to think about survival and not grandiose ideas. She blabbed on about the albatross so much I was about to loose my mind.



Bodeen wrote her as a truly fallible character. Robbie dropped the ball so much. She didn't take advantage of opportunities and failed to help when needed. I know fifteen is a young age and that should be factored in, but some of the situations seemed overplayed. Her reason for leaving Hawaii was unrealistic and I thought that was the weakest point of the book.


That being said, I found the book fascinating. How would you deal with being stranded in the middle of the Pacific with nothing? How would you survive? How would you cope? She was riddled with fear and panic. There were some scary moments and I was rooting for her, telling her to control her emotions. (Yes, my husband thinks I'm weird too.) 


Bodeen had some detailed information about the wildlife and sea creatures that enhanced the story, however I thought the facts were repetitive and started sounding like a PETA ad by the end of the book. She did a great job of drawing the story out, to create the monotony of being adrift for days at sea. The realism was intense, but repetitive. The writing was somewhat confusing with Robbie's monotoned responses. It seemed like her emotional range was very small. The beginning of the book was the most unrealistic to me. How could her parents let her fly all over the world by herself? How could her aunt be that irresponsible knowing Robbie would be alone and having to travel? Once the crash happened, Bodeen tried to make the atmosphere more suspenseful but I felt more confused then anything else. 



The situation seemed pretty obvious to me (no spoilers, sorry!) When you looked at the clues, it was obvious, but she added a spin that was almost paranormal in my mind. Hence, the confusion. She could have easily made this into a paranormal novel, which would have greatly enhanced and strengthened the book. As written, it was pretty predictable. Bear in mind I am a thirty-eight year old reading this. It probably would not be as predictable to a young teenager.

Flashbacks of Tom Hanks in his stranded island role kept running through my head. I kept wishing for the volleyball to show up. At least we had Max. The aspect I loved most about this book was how the experience effected Robbie. She had to grow up fast. She had to gather her wits about her and learn to do things she never thought she could do. Having to witness horrific tragedies, endure life threatening conditions and overcoming terrible obstacles, Robbie went from a self-absorbed, frivolous teenager who complained about the lack of speciality goods to much more mature girl. Readers had to give her credit for surviving something that monumental. Days without food and water, pounding sun, sharks and more... she got through it all. 

Overall I thought it was a great book and plowed through it in a couple of hours. It's dramatic and thought provoking. It was an honest and real portrayal of a fallible girl struggling with being frozen with terror, halted by philosophical ideas that could end up killing her and haunted by harsh actualities. Fears were faced, realities were upturned and one girl morphed into a new person. Yes, there were some overall issues with the book, but the storyline overall was solid. I appreciated how Bodeen attempted to address a common survival story in a new way. It was fascinating to see someone's coping mechanisms and what they would (and wouldn't) do to survive.

I recommend this book as a great summer read... just maybe not before you are boarding a plane ;) ENJOY!