Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Review: The Riverman

The Riverman (Riverman, book one)
By Aaron Starmer
Published 2014 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux

 Fiona has always been a bit strange. But Alastair, her neighbor, is about to discover she's even stranger than he could have imagined. You see, she's about to tell him a fantastical story about a hidden world she visits, one that's also in danger. And she's worried that the Riverman has found her in the real world as well.

Well, from looking at the Goodreads page for this book, it's clear I'm in the minority about it. What I cannot deny is that this book is complex, full of interesting ideas and things that will keep you guessing until the final page. However, I can't deny I have some quibbles with it.

This book is set in the 1980s. That setting is never made clear, however, and I think this will only confuse young readers. I had the vague notion that the action was taking place at some point in the past but it wasn't until more than halfway through the book when a character references paying $4000 for a laptop computer that I got a more definite sense of when this book is set (though were laptops even a thing in the 1980s?). Without any clear statement about the when of this book, I think it will just seem strange to young readers.

This leads to my main quibble with this book: I cannot think of who is the ideal reader for this book. It is a very strange book where fantasy and reality overlap and it's never made clear which version of events is the correct one. The fantasy world that Fiona describes is particularly peculiar and the complexities of emotions and situations that the characters are addressing throughout the novel seem a bit outside the realm of your average middle-grade reader. Far be it from me to declare that there is no perfect reader for this book; I just don't know that kid. I am going to have an extremely difficult time recommending this to young readers in my library but, as always, your mileage may vary.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via NetGalley.

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