The Raft

The Raft

4.3 98
by S. A. Bodeen

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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

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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.
The Raft is a thrilling novel of survival from award-winning author S.A. Bodeen.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A simple airplane trip becomes a harrowing struggle for survival in this tense offering from Bodeen (The Gardener). Fifteen-year-old Robie is on her way home to Midway Island after vacationing in Honolulu when the tiny cargo plane she’s on develops engine problems. One emergency landing later, and Robie is forced to swim for her life, taking refuge on a life raft with Max, the copilot. In the middle of nowhere, with almost no supplies, and under constant threat of shark attack, their chances for rescue are impossibly slim. As they fight to stay alive, Max’s story unfolds and Robie discovers just how far she’ll go in the name of self-preservation. Bodeen’s tight, pared-down sentences mirror Robie’s mood as her ability to cope falls apart (“My throat was so dry, I could barely swallow. I rolled on my back and looked up at the sky. Cloudless. Again”). This psychological thriller uses natural menaces and Robie’s eroding mental state to strike one dark note after another, leading to some disturbing twists and an ending that isn’t entirely reassuring. Ages 12–up. Agent: Scott Mendel, Mendel Media Group. (Aug.)
VOYA - Alissa Lauzon
Fifteen-year-old Robie lives with her research biologist parents on Midway Island. Whenever she cannot take the life of isolation on the island anymore, her parents throw her on a supply flight to Honolulu to stay at her aunt's house. After an unsuccessful attempt to stay at her aunt's alone, a frightened Robie, determined to get home, takes the first available flight to Midway, even though no one knows she is coming. The flight is typical until a storm suddenly hits, the engine dies, and the co-pilot is throwing Robie out of the window. Suddenly, Robie finds herself on a raft in the middle of the ocean with no food or water, no sign of help, and facing the threat of sharks and a difficult battle to survive. Bodeen's short chapters, quick pacing, and quick bursts of action give this title appeal for reluctant readers. It is also a solid choice for teen girls looking to read a survival or adventure story. Robie's voice and characterization are spot-on for her age—she makes poor choices; at times acts extremely immaturely, annoying and whinny, while at others, fiercely determined to do what she needs to do in order to survive. Readers who pay attention will pick up on the fact that something is not quite right with Max, the co-pilot who saves Robie's life, but the truth of the major plot twist adds an interesting dimension to the survival tale and ultimately pulls together all the pieces that did not quite make sense. Reviewer: Alissa Lauzon
VOYA - Christy Swartz
The Raft is exciting, interesting, and very unique for a survival story. It shows how independence is not always as great as it seems, and how humans react to certain conditions. Robie needs someone to talk to, so she talks to Max, who is not really there. Younger teenager would enjoy this, especially if those who like survival stories. The book makes the reader appreciate "normal," easy lives, compared to Robie's on the raft. 3Q, 3P. Reviewer: Christy Swartz, Teen Reviewer
Children's Literature - Loretta Caravette
There have been many stories written about castaways and how they survived. This is another of those stories and it is as adventurous and inspiring as any. Fifteen year old Robie is visiting an aunt on the big island of Hawaii. When she unexpectantly has to leave, Robie takes this opportunity to be on her own and lies to her parents about her Aunt's whereabouts. But after just a short while the idea of being on her own is scary and she decides to take a cargo plane home to the Midway Atoll where her parents live. A fierce storm causes the plane to crash into the Pacific and Robie is dragged into a raft by Max, the co-pilot. Since her parents think Robie is with her Aunt, they are not looking for her. Robie and Max's struggle to survive is as nerve-racking and intense despite the familiar subject and circumstances of no water, no food, and no land in sight. However, Bodeen has given us a fresh perspective from a fifteen year old struggling and it has more terror in it and courage. It also has a surprising twist. This is a good read for any young adult. Just don't read it near the ocean. Reviewer: Loretta Caravette
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up—Step aside Karana (Island of the Blue Dolphins)-teen fiction has a new castaway heroine. Robie loves traveling from the Midway Atoll where she lives with her parents, both researchers, to visit her aunt in Honolulu. She's taken the trip by cargo plane many times by herself, but when a storm hits mid-flight, Robie has to bail out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. With the storm still pouring water over them, the plane's copilot, Max, inflates the emergency raft and drags Robie to safety. On the raft with a man she doesn't know, over hundreds of miles of ocean, her problems really begin. Survival means patching up the leaking raft, staying hydrated, and avoiding the tiger shark that's following her. Eventually she must face the reality that rescue may not be coming. After days and days of torture on the open water, she washes up on the beach of an uninhabited island. Is this island her salvation or her final resting place? Fast-paced and intense, Robie's story has a tight grip on readers up to the very last page. What will stick with them are the choices Robie makes amid her grim reality and her determination to stay alive. There is nothing like losing everything to make you appreciate what you have, like parents who love you and clean drinking water. This book will satisfy anyone who likes a good survival story.—Richelle Roth, Boone County Public Library, KY
Kirkus Reviews
When her plane crashes, Robie's years of living with her researcher parents on Midway Island provide her with important knowledge. Cutting short a visit to an aunt in Honolulu, 15-year-old Robie gets on a small cargo plane delivering supplies that founders in an electrical storm; a crash quickly follows engine failure. The raft that becomes her support contains some useful items, but with the only other survivor almost comatose, it is clear that Robie is pretty much on her own. As a survival tale, this is both engaging and full of scary factoids and frightening possibilities. Not completely likable, Robie nonetheless engages readers with her sometimes almost stream-of-consciousness narration. She finds ways to push herself to be brave and do what is needed to survive. Her familiarity with the flora and fauna of the Pacific islands proves both asset and hindrance: She knows the danger she's in. Her thoughts are often selfish, almost whiny, but this rough-edges glimpse into her personality ultimately makes both her decisions and her chances of survival more realistic. Despite its small font, it's a quick read, thanks to plenty of white space. A compelling survival adventure. (Adventure. 11-15)

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Product Details

Square Fish
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
5.76(w) x 8.06(h) x 0.66(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt



The dude with the lime-green Mohawk and dark wooden plugs in his earlobes looked down at me, the long silver needle in his rubber-gloved hand pointed directly at my face.

“Wait.” I swallowed and gripped the arms of my chair.

Jutting out one hip, he rolled his eyes. “Do you want your nose pierced or not?”

“Yes, just … can you tell me something worse?” I pointed at the needle. “Something that is worse than that?”

He probably thought my request was insane, but that was how I coped with unpleasant things. Once I found out something worse, then it was easier to deal with. Whether it was a filling at the dentist or an end-of-term physics test, finding out things that were worse helped me deal with new challenges.

Green Mohawk Dude seemed to think about it as he looked around. A blond pregnant woman in tall suede boots and a fuchsia halter dress browsed through the gold hoops. With one gloved finger, he pointed at her. “Childbirth. Fairly certain that hurts worse.”

“I’m fifteen.” My turn to eye roll. “Something a little more relative? Not so obviously inappropriate?” I got ready to leave.

He pointed down at his black flip-flops. “See my big toes?”

My glance went downward and I flinched. His toes were big and callousy with yellowish nails. Easily the ugliest toes I’d ever seen.


Green Mohawk Dude said, “Last year I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Coming down, my toes got smashed into the front of my boots. Ended up losing both my big toenails. Took them eleven months to grow back.”

I asked, “And that hurt worse than getting your nose pierced?”

“Guess so.” He shrugged. “Now, can we do this?”

Nodding, I closed my eyes as he shoved the needle through my skin.

A rush of stinging flooded up my nose. “Holy crap!” My eyes watered so bad I had to blink like crazy, then I finally gave up and kept them shut for a while. When I did open them again, first I glared at the green-haired liar standing in front of me, then looked in the mirror to check out the diamond adorning my nose. “Sweet.”

“No swimming in pools for a month. Even though they’re chlorinated, they could have germs. And lakes, rivers … avoid those. The ocean too. Just to be safe. You don’t want to get it infected.” He handed me a plastic baggie with alcohol swabs and Xeroxed instructions. “So now you can go back to the mainland with the new look you got in Honolulu.”

“Um, yeah,” I said, suddenly wondering just how much trouble I would be in when my parents saw my nose. “Actually, I don’t live on the mainland. I live the other direction, out on Midway Island.”

“Midway as in the Battle of Midway?”

I nodded.

His eyebrows went up and he nodded. “Very cool. You’re lucky.”


If I had a dollar for every time someone called me that, I’d be rich, because that’s all I heard when I told people about my life.

When I told them that I lived on a coral atoll in the middle of the Pacific:


When I told them that I didn’t go to a real school:


When I told them that I hung out among dolphins and monk seals and nesting albatross:


For three years, my parents had been research biologists on historic Midway, now a national wildlife refuge, so I lived there too, in the old admiral’s home called Midway House. Sure, there were cool things like having my own golf cart and making my own hours for home school and getting to hang out with National Geographic photographers. Plus the fact I knew more about ocean fish and seabirds than most postgraduate researchers.

Those things did make me feel lucky.

But then there were other things that did not make me feel so lucky.

Like having the Internet crap out for days at a time, and not even owning a cell phone because there was no reception, and getting only three television channels, one of which was CNN, none of which were MTV. What’s the point of even having television?

Not to mention being the only kid among fifty or so adults, which left me no one to talk to except for Facebook friends, and that was only when the Internet worked.

Lately it seemed there were a lot more days when my life felt less like luck and way more like suck.

I paid Green Mohawk Dude, tipped him a little, and then headed back for AJ’s apartment.

What saved me from going crazy most of the time was Dad’s sister, my aunt Jillian, who lived in Honolulu. AJ, as I called her, had a place right on Waikiki Beach and was a consultant, which meant she got to do all her work from home. She was way younger than Dad, only about thirty, and when I couldn’t take the isolation anymore, my parents would throw me on the supply flight returning to Honolulu from Midway and send me to her. And that’s where I had been spending the month of June.

When I walked in, AJ was on the phone. Her long brown hair was up in a clip and she had a plumeria-laden cover-up on over her red bikini. AJ’s eyes widened when she saw my nose, then she gave me a thumbs-up. As soon as she hung up, she came over and grabbed my chin, eyeing my new piercing. “Let me see this diamond I paid for.” She grinned. “Your parents are never going to let you come here again.”

I tossed my green crocheted purse on the table. “I’m getting my suit on.”

*   *   *

AJ spent every day sitting by the pool with me, although she did try to get me to branch out. She called through the bathroom door: “Can’t we do the beach today, Robie? We can get a good spot by the Hilton.”

“Nope.” I put on my purple cheetah bikini. “Two words. Sand and waves.”

She laughed. “For someone who lives on an island, you are the most ocean-aversive person I’ve ever met.”

“I love the ocean!” I protested, as I opened the door.

AJ groaned. “You just don’t like to touch it.”

“Exactly. I just like to look.” I pointed at my nose. “Plus I have instructions not to go in the water.”

She shook her head. “Finally, your perfect excuse to not get wet.”

We went down to the pool. Wearing my contented smile, I leaned back on my pool chair and turned on my e-reader to Stephen King’s newest, which I was almost done with. There was absolutely nowhere else I would rather be at that moment. “Now, this is the life.”

She asked, “So what shall we do tonight?”

Every evening we headed off to do something, like see a movie or get pedicures at Ala Moana Center. My toes currently sported bright orange polish, rhinestone flowers on both big toes. One night my aunt surprised me by having a friend of hers come and give me cornrows. My dirty-blond hair was almost to my waist, so it took forever. When she finished, I looked in the mirror and tried not to show my shock. With my tan, the cornrows looked a little tacky. And I didn’t look anything like myself. But I didn’t want to make AJ feel bad, so I lied and said I loved them. My dad would like them, so I planned on keeping them until I got back to Midway, just so he could see. Plus it was kind of fun to walk around, feeling unrecognizable.

AJ waited for me to answer about tonight.

“International Market Place?” I suggested.

“Sure. Cheesecake Factory after?”


That evening at the International Market Place, a collection of booths and shops selling anything and everything, I found a henna tattoo stand where a pretty Hawaiian lady, dark hair to her waist and three rings in her nose, beckoned to me.

I wanted a real tattoo, but my parents were already going to freak over my nose. AJ had signed the permission form only after I promised to take all the blame. That’s how deep her coolness went. She had even sprung for the diamond, which, even she admitted, totally rocked. So, given I’d already used up my quota of quasi-permanent bodily changes my parents would dislike, I started to look through the book of henna tattoo samples.

AJ tapped me on the arm. “I’m going to be right over there by those shell planters.”

The tattoo lady asked, “You want your aumakua?”

“What’s that?”

“Your ancestral guide. The spirit that protects your ohana. Your family, yeah?”

“I’m not Hawaiian.”

The tattoo lady smiled. “Mine is the honu.” She pointed to a picture of a sea turtle.

“I love green sea turtles.” I sat down on the wooden chair and propped my foot up on a stool.

With a little plastic bottle, she squeezed the brown henna out like she was painting, and it tickled my ankle. The henna turtle looked like brown mud when she finished. “It will dry, but leave it on, yeah?” She handed me a little baggie with a cotton ball inside. “It’s soaked in lemon juice. Squeeze this on several times and the henna will last longer.”

I handed her three wrinkled fives and went to find AJ.

There was a huge line outside the Cheesecake Factory, but I made my way through the crowd and inside the noisy restaurant where AJ was already at a table. We shared a slice of turtle cheesecake. AJ had just gotten a refill of decaf when her phone rang.

She glanced at her phone. “Barney.”

Even I knew Barney was the guy who gave her the most consulting work. AJ always took his calls. “Hey, Barn.”

I leaned down and touched my tattoo. The henna was stiff and felt like it was drying out my skin.

Back above the table, AJ’s eyes narrowed as she listened for a while. “Seriously?” She listened a little more and rolled her eyes. “No. No, that’s fine. I’ll come tomorrow.” She hung up and put a hand on mine. “I am so sorry, Robie. I’ve got to go to LA tomorrow.”

“That sucks.” I wasn’t looking forward to cutting short my trip and going back to Midway. But I saw her face and added, “It’s only a week short, I was going back next week anyway.” I took a sip of my Coke.

The waitress brought the bill and AJ got out her reading glasses. “You don’t have to go back.” She leaned forward like she was going to tell me a secret. “Bobbi can stay with you.”

Stifling a groan, I faked a smile.

Bobbi was a friend of AJ’s who lived on the other side of Oahu. We’d been up to see her a couple times at her beach house, which was always messy and full of smelly cats. Bobbi was old, like fifty, and had thick, waist-length dreadlocks and really tan, leathery-looking skin. She didn’t believe in bras. Or deodorant.

“No, that’s okay. I can go back to Midway.” I paused. “Or … I could just stay at your place by myself.”

She started to shake her head and protest, but I cut her off. “AJ, I’m almost sixteen.”

AJ huffed out her nose. “Robie. You are not almost sixteen. You’ve only been fifteen for two months.”

I shrugged. “Still, you have security up the ying-yang at your place, I know my way around…”

She looked at me over the top of her black cat-eye reading glasses. “Your parents would kill me.”

“We won’t tell them?”

AJ tapped the pen on the bill for a moment, and then pointed it at me. “Only if Bobbi stops in every day after work.”

Ew. “Every other day.”

Her voice was firm. “Every day.”

“Fine.” I held out my hand and we shook.

The next morning, after about an hour of instructions, admonitions, and warnings, AJ left for the airport. I was just getting ready for the pool when the phone rang. Bobbi said, “Hi, Robie. Jillian fly out yet?”

Technically not, since she was probably still sitting at the airport. “No.”

“I can’t talk, but can you give her a message for me?”


Bobbi’s words were rushed. “I’m not gonna be able to stop in like she asked me to. My car died and I have to carpool with a guy from up here.”

“That’s okay.” I smiled as I noticed AJ had left me a small fortune’s worth of bills on the counter.

“Can she get someone else to check in on you?”

“Yes. Definitely. Don’t worry about it.”

I hung up. I was free for a week. Although I did already miss AJ, I did a little dance.



Copyright © 2012 by S. A. Bodeen

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