Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Review of The Raft by S.A. Bodeen

Feiwel & Friends
The Raft
by S.A. Bodeen
2 Scribbles
After reading The Compound, I dedicated myself to reading everything written by S.A. Bodeen in the hopes of finding that all of her works would cause me to flip the pages in earnest while gnawing on my nails and leaning forward in my seat like The Compound did.  So, after minor disappointment with her second work, The Gardener, I was excited to see The Raft hitting the shelves—so much so that I pre-ordered my copy—something I seldom do. 

First let me say that the cover of this novel is rockin’! It promises a riveting and adventure-soaked ride. Alas, that’s where the excitement ends. Robie is a teenager who lives on a remote island near Hawaii where a great deal of research takes place. Because of this, sometimes Robie stays on the mainland with her aunt. During one of these visits, circumstances force Robie’s aunt to leave, and when Robie tries to make the flight home, she finds herself in a plane crash.  Miraculously, she survives, but in the process becomes a hostage of the sea.  Perhaps part of the problem with this novel is that stories like these have appeared so many times in the past before in film and have been done so well (Castaway anyone)  although perhaps not with teenaged characters.  It seems like being in a raft at sea would pose far more risks than Robie faces, and the risks that are mentioned, hunger, dehydration, torn raft, sunburn, sharks, are too far understated. The biggest risk in Robie’s ride seems to be boredom—and perhaps that’s the problem. Being in a raft floating at sea would be boring, and the author hits too close to home. And while there are a few minor twists to the story, and Robie’s knowledge of nature and geography is impressive, there isn’t enough tension to drive the story forward. Robie’s character is sort of ho-hum and she’s very hard to identify with. She has no real friends because she lives on a remote island most of the time anyway, and other than her newly-pierced nose and henna tattoo, she seems to have little depth. It’s hard to say who or what she lives for—other than her parents—and that just seems odd. The reader really has to be committed to this journey in order to finish the novel.  Very short chapters help that problem, but the mysterious finding at the end borders on hokey. Overall, this work just doesn’t meet the expectations set by the cover. Perhaps Bodeen’s next novel, The Fallout, which is the sequel to The Compound, out next year, will be her next masterpiece, but unless you’re a hardcore Bodeen fan, I’d float right past this one.

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