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.
Okay, so Robie decides at the last minute to take a flight from Honolulu to her home on Midway Atoll, but no one knows that she’s going and because it’s last minute, she’s not on the manifest. Then the plane goes down and she’s saved by Max, the co-pilot, and they are adrift on a raft for several days in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It’s a pretty terrifying concept, ending up on a deserted island after some kind of accident, with no hope for rescue. It’s definitely something that sounds more intriguing in an abstract way (…what would I bring with me on a deserted island), but I would not want to experience. I wouldn’t want to live on a deserted island even if there was a luxurious cabin and internet and people knew where I was.
Anyway, Robie is your typical self-centered fifteen year old who thinks she can get away with staying by herself in Hawaii when her aunt is unexpectantly called away, but something happens and she decides to go home. This is not your typical YA book, so I don’t know how to review it. I kind of thought, going in, that it would be somewhat like the adult book On The Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves, which follows a teen boy and his adult tutor to a deserted island after a plane crash, but it was nothing like this. The Raft sticks very close to Robie, her thoughts, her actions, her feelings. It’s almost stream of consciousness. Because of the wreck and because she and Max do not have water or food, she slowly becomes sicker and less reliable as a narrator because we don’t know if what she’s seeing and feeling is actually happening.
Because Robie was raised on an island in the same general area, she has an unexpectedly large store of knowledge about the animals and birds and other things that a random person would not. This helps her, of course, but I think that, as a random person, I would prefer not to know all the different animals that would most likely be stalking me in the water and the air. It’s a very fast moving book, but not a lot actually happens. I sort of (I think) figured out fairly early on one of the plot devices, but it was still handled pretty effectively…until the end. Which I’m still kind of reeling from. So…it is definitely sticking in my head. If you want something a little different than the typical YA melodrama, this is definitely a palate cleanser.