When teenager Robie needs to get a quick flight from Honolulu to her home island of Midway, she jumps aboard the next cargo plane. She's done it many times before, and it's not unusual for her to be the only passenger. This time, she's on the plane with the pilot, whom she knows, and the co-pilot, a young man named Max whom she's never met.
Unfortunately, things go wrong and the plan crashes in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Robie and Max survive, but they're cast adrift at sea on a raft with very few tools and no real way of contacting anyone for help. They have to deal with food and water shortages, sharks, the sun, and each other. It's a fast-paced story that throws a new obstacle at Robie and Max every few pages.
Partway through the book, Bodeen throws us for a pretty major loop. It's not totally unexpected, but it does make the book stand out from the usual survival fare. She uses this twist to try and add a bit more character depth, but the results aren't totally successful. It seemed more like a cheat than an organic part of the story. Since I want to avoid spoilers, I can't really explain this any more clearly. Suffice to say that if you read the book, you'll know what I mean.It certainly adds interest and prevents the story from descending into boring stretches of Robie just sitting on the raft twiddling her thumbs.
That said, I thought the book was a good one, on the whole. Fans of survival stories will really dig it. I personally loved reading about the details that made Robie's survival possible: how to get drinkable water, how to stretch your Skittles for maximum sustenance, how to catch a fish when you don't have any traditional fishing equipment, and so on. I also found this to be a very suspenseful read. I was pretty sure I knew whether or not Robie would survive from page one, but Bodeen still managed to keep the tension high.
I've read several reviews that called The Raft boring and slow. I'm a little surprised by that, since I didn't find it slow at all. On the contrary, I read it in a single sitting and it seemed very action-oriented to me. But I'm also a person who used to loathe survival stories as a kid, so clearly this is just a matter of taste.
Review copy received from the publisher. The Raft will be published August 21.