Book Review: Adrift by Paul Griffin

AdriftAdrift
Paul Griffin
Scholastic Press, August 2015
ISBN 978-0-545-70939-2
Hardcover

Reading Adrift is like floating on the ocean, basking in the sun one minute; being tugged under icy, churning waters the very next. It’s a kick-ass story delivered in an almost detached voice, packing a powerful punch. It’s gritty and raw, in a naturally understated kind of way. The story of two guys living on the border of Brooklyn and Queens with summer jobs in Montauk, selling cold drinks and ice-cream on beaches starts quickly, gaining momentum as it unfolds.

The brother-like bond between the boys is easily evident early on. Subtle suggestions of a shared, sinister moment are intriguing. An impulsive gift of slightly melted Klondike bars to three strangers (one of which is a beauty with a heart-stopping, crooked smile) immediately integrates two very different worlds and forces them to embark in a volatile, enthralling, seafaring expedition.

“Five of us went out on the water that night. None of us
came back whole and not all of us came back.”

The story is, quite simply, stunning. A cunning confirmation of the importance of perception is rare and remarkably well done here. Reaching conclusions quickly, accepting the “obvious” answer when studying only one, very limited, view can be disastrous. The snippets of correspondence among law enforcement, searchers and rescuers interspersed with the narrative are shocking and scary in their simplicity.

Mr. Griffin weaves a wicked good tale; flirting with foreshadow while revealing bits of the characters’ past, creating a web of questions, confusion and abruptly apparent answers. With a diverse cast of captivating kids, an epic and mysterious escapade-turned-mission, and authentic dialogue, Adrift will have mass appeal. Appropriate for the middle-grade reader but too broad to be limited, Mr. Griffin’s upcoming survival story will be an awesome addition to anyone’s Summer Reading List.

Reviewed by jv poore, July 2015.