Review: The Riverman

0374363099_01_LZZZZZZZI am going to start off by saying that I committed a book selection faux pas by judging this book by its cover. It was a Friday afternoon and I was looking over my carts of Advance Reading Copies; I didn’t really like the cover of this book, and thought that I would just read the first couple pages, add it to a couple of the genre lists and be done with it. Well, I read the first couple pages and was hooked.

I read the description of this book and saw “magical portal”, and “man stealing children’s souls” and had assumed that it wouldn’t be very realistic. The readers follow Alistair’s daily life as he goes to school and interacts with his friends, specifically, Charlie and Fiona. This book is set in the 1980s, but that doesn’t really affect much of the setting of the book aside from having no cell phones and using a tape recorder. Aside from Fiona’s recollection of Aquavania, there isn’t much of a fantastical element to this book. It just requires a child-like imagination and curiosity.

In the second chapter, Fiona comes to Alistair and gives him a birthday present (when it isn’t his birthday) that consists of a dusty old jacket and a tape recorder. On the tape recorder is Fiona’s request for Alistair to write her biography based on his skills that he demonstrated in a fictional story he wrote called, “Sixth Grade for the Outer-Spacers”. Alistair is intrigued by her request and accepts. Once she begins telling her life story she says to Alistair that she needed, “a witness with an imagination”, which may be a strange request but fits with the world she begins to tell about. As she continues telling about her life the readers learn about when she was four years old she was transported to the world of Aquavania. Aquavania is a world where any child with an imagination can create a world of their liking; a world filled with anything they could wish for. But, there is a dark aspect to these wonderful worlds being created.

Fiona tells Alistair there is a person in Aquavania called The Riverman, who ventures to each child’s world and steals their souls. Fiona is worried that her world and soul will be next. Alistair respectfully listens to Fiona’s story but privately assumes that Aquavania is a coping mechanism for something horrible that is going on within her personal life at home. So, he sets off to investigate the people living in Fiona’s home: her parents, grandmother, and uncle. As I continued on and Fiona told me and Alistair more about the world of Aquavania, I secretly wished that I had been transported to Aquavania as a child even with the danger lurking in the corners.

When I was reading this book I was as hooked as Alistair was to Fiona’s story and how the mystery of The Riverman unraveled within Alistair’s daily life interactions with his family, Charlie, and Fiona. This has been the first book in a while that I felt the need to take home with me from work and read it all the time.  As Alistair is trying to figure out the mystery of Fiona, the readers experience his daily interactions at school and sleepover with Charlie. Instead of dragging the story down, these experiences add to the richness of the storytelling in this novel and the completeness of Alistair as a believable character and middle school age boy.

The mystery in this book creates great suspense and anticipation to find out what happened at the end. However, by the end of the book there were still a few questions that had been left unanswered. Leaving these questions unanswered confused and surprised me at first. But, as I woke up the next morning I was okay with how it had ended and thought it was one of those types of books that wasn’t supposed to give all of the answers. So, when I came into work the next morning to look up the book, I was surprised when I saw that it is going to be a trilogy. I am honestly not sure how I feel about that because I do think the ending of this book was perfect and I think trilogies are being overused. However, aside from those facts, I am hooked to Alistair’s story and the world of Aquavania, so I am sure I will be picking up the next in the trilogy and finding out what happens next.

The Riverman by Aaron Starmer. 9780374363093. Gr. 7-10.

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