Monday, December 17, 2018

Book Review - The Boatman

I didn't read much (any?) horror as a child. I remember having a copy of "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" and generally enjoying those stories but I didn't read much else in the genre until I got older. As an adult, I really enjoyed books like Gaiman's Coraline and The Graveyard Book and feel like I would have liked them as a child. Naturally then, I was interested in checking out The Boatman.

The main protagonist is a young girl named Izzy. As in many tragic stories, her parents are dead and she has been placed under the guardianship of her aunt Ms Slaughter. We quickly find Izzy struggling against the harsh rules and regulations of her aunt and school and life. We also quickly learn that Izzy has a penchant to observe and interact with the supernatural world around her.

The writing in the story was entertaining and well structured. The descriptions were vibrant and the dialog was fun. I felt that the plot and story arc felt a little unsteady at points but overall it was alright.

While I enjoyed the book, it didn't come across as exactly the book I was expecting. For some reason, the book synopsis led me to think that the supernatural elements managed to cross over into the "real" world. Specifically, the last part of the synopsis says that she "invented" the Boatman, "a terrible monster that lures kids into a strange sleeping sickness." I expected the Boatman to be a supernatural villain who came into our world (through Izzy's actions) and began preying on children in the town. Minor spoiler alert...this doesn't happen.

The last half or third of the novel in particular really disconnected a little bit for me. The trajectory of horror novel shifted and became more of a psychological analysis (not even a psychological thriller per se). The message was insightful and interesting, if perhaps a bit heavy handed.

I felt like this was a fun story that kids would enjoy. It's just creepy enough to draw them in without being over-the-top scary in a way that would disturb them. The message/morale of the story is nice and could open up some reassuring discussions between parents and children. I loved the inclusion of artwork in parts of the book. I feel like more young/middle reader stories should include art like this. With the wonderful descriptive language of the author, the imagery was not a necessity but it added some fun diversions while turning pages. On the whole, I found this to be an enjoyable read that I'd gladly hand over to younger readers and one that I'd be willing to read aloud. It left me wanting a little more in some cases and feeling a little off balance when transitioning from the first half to the second half. Overall it was an enjoyable experience.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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