The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast has a premise that sounded incredibly unique and interesting to me, and I knew as soon as I saw that stunning cover and read the synopsis that I was going to have to read it. I pretty much already liked the book before I even picked it up.
When I got a copy in the mail I decided that I was going to read it with my two daughters, because it’s summer and I figured it would be a lot of fun for the three of us to read it together. Both my eight year old and five year old daughters liked the story, and while I had to explain a few things to them, they loved the experience of sitting down and reading the book with me. The messages in the story are deep, and often dark at times, but it’s a really rewarding novel that I found to be a fantastic read.
“Once upon a time, there was a boy who was lost.”
So begins the tale of the The Boy, The Boat, and the Beast. A boy wakes up on a strange beach with no recollection of who he is or how he came to be on the beach. All he knows is that he is a boy, and that he is lost, and has no idea where he is or how he got there. All he knows is that he must have a home somewhere, and he is determined to find it.
However, his surroundings start to make him uneasy: the ocean surrounding the island he is on is wild and he is convinced there is something in the water that wants to drag him under, and there is a beast lurking around in the woods behind the beach, making him too terrified to go into them to find his way around. For now, he is stuck on the island, terrified, confused, and alone, save for the bullying voice in his head that puts him and his ideas down constantly.
“Once upon a time, there was a boy who wanted to stop being afraid.”
As the boy spends one night on the island, and that nights turns into two nights and then into three nights, he realizes that he no longer wants to be afraid of everything going on around him. So he begins talking aloud to help him get through it, telling himself stories that start with “once upon a time, there was a boy who…,” finishing the sentence with information that is relevant to what is going on. He tries to tell himself that he is strong enough to go on, even rescuing crabs from the rising ocean waters and owls from thunderstorms in the forest.
“Once upon a time, there was a boy who could remember.”
As time goes on, the boy begins to remember things. A flashback of his mother reading to him reminds him that she loved him and protected him, while another flashback showed him that his little brother, Ollie, loved and needed him to come home. Eventually the boy begins to put together the pieces that remind of who he is, where he is from, and what happened to land him on this deserted island.
When he finally realizes what he has to do to fix things and get home, he is forced to stand up and face his worst fears in order to make it off the island.
I really liked this book – it was suspenseful with just the right amount of fantasy elements to keep even the most reluctant readers interested. The writing style was definitely interesting, and it was fun going along with the boy as he rediscovered who he was and what was important to him.
“Maybe you can’t tell the strength of a person until you’ve seen inside their fears. Maybe a person can’t tell their own strength until they can face their doubts.”
There are a few messages in this book that are both dark and inspiring, and I think that readers who are able to pick up on them will truly benefit from them in their daily lives. There were quite a few, like the quote above, that I found to be really great for both kids and adults alike.
I felt like the bully character that the boy talks to inside his head to be kind of harsh, putting the boy down as often as possible. While I could say that a positive, uplifting voice inside the boy’s head would have made the book a bit more happy and maybe even given the boy the confidence he needed to get off the island faster, I can see where the author was going.
My daughters were a bit shocked by the ending – they didn’t see that coming, but I figured it out from the very beginning. It wasn’t a problem for me, though – I still loved the experience and the story, and I don’t feel like guessing the ending really took away from much of the story for me. Then again, I’ve been reading hundreds of books a year for over twenty some years now, so it’s no surprise there!