In this year of the anniversary of the Titanic’s ill-fated voyage, survival at sea has been a common theme. In S.A. Bodeen’s deceptively simple novel The Raft, the clear-cut lines between life and death become as blurry as heat rising from asphalt, when a young girl struggles to stay alive. Fifteen-year-old Robie’s method for overcoming her fears has always been to ask people to "tell me something worse", but what do you do when there is nothing worse?
Robie lives a life that many her age would kill for. Her parents are research biologists, and the family lives on Midway Island, west of Hawai`i. Robie is home-schooled, makes her own schedule, and hangs out with naturalists and National Geographic photographers. When she gets bored, she hops a plane to Honolulu to visit her uber-cool aunt AJ. She is returning home from her aunt’s when the unthinkable happens—the engines fail and the small plane plummets into the sea. Robie and the co-pilot, Max, are the only survivors. Adrift in a leaky raft with an unconscious pilot, Robie is on her own. While food, water and the elements are the major physical concerns, keeping herself mentally present is proving to be an even greater challenge. As her body grows weaker, it becomes all-too-easy to simply close her eyes and give up. Max won’t let her do that, however, and he wakes just often enough to force her to stay alert, alive, and ready for rescue.
Bodeen is the author of many books for teens, including the best-seller The Compound. She ventures away from her usual science fiction fare with The Raft, but keeps firmly grounded in marine biology for her descriptions of ocean and island wildlife. Readers will be absorbed but also torn between lingering over the vivid details and rapidly turning the page to discover Robie’s fate.