Few things in life can supply equal joy of reading amazing middle school books. Even if you don't typically read children's chapters books, I would recommend you stay tuned for this particular one. Aaron Starmer's Riverman is one of the best children's books I've read in a long time.
WARNING: This novel does contain violence (guns) and some sexual innuendo. I would reserve this book for mature middle schoolers and above.
And I also must warn you that this review is mostly going to be one massive rave, lacking the structure I normally strive for. But I can't help it. I'm just too excited.
**ALL MY BOOK REVIEWS ARE SPOILER FREE
Series: #1 of the Riverman Trilogy (?)
Author: Aaron Starmer
Genre: Chldren's/YA Fantasy
Released: March 18th, 2014
Links: Amazon | Goodreads
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
DESCRIPTION (courtesy of Goodreads)
"Fiona Loomis is Alice, back from Wonderland. She is Lucy, returned from Narnia. She is Coraline, home from the Other World. She is the girl we read about in storybooks, but here's the difference: She is real.
Twelve-year-old Alistair Cleary is her neighbor in a town where everyone knows each other. One afternoon, Fiona shows up at Alistair's doorstep with a strange proposition. She wants him to write her biography. What begins as an odd vanity project gradually turns into a frightening glimpse into a clearly troubled mind. For Fiona tells Alistair a secret. In her basement there's a gateway and it leads to the magical world of Aquavania, the place where stories are born. In Aquavania, there's a creature called the Riverman and he's stealing the souls of children. Fiona's soul could be next.
Alistair has a choice. He can believe her, or he can believe something else...something even more terrifying."
WHY I'M RAVING
I loved nearly everything about this book. Characters, story, writing, everything!
The book description says that Fiona is like Alice only "real." And that captures the essence of this character. She isn't a fairy tale character startled, but slightly amused, by the talking animals. Fiona's tale capture something eerie that is very much present outside of the fairytale realm.
As far as characters go, the only thing that I could've loved more was Alistair, the main character. I liked him enough. But I felt he was overshadowed by everything else in the book. I was much more interested in Fiona's story (and everyone else's story). However, since the story is told through Alistair's perspective, I felt "forced" to be interested in his story as a means to Fiona's story. That said, I still did like Alistair.
Starmer's story is one that tip toes on the border of magical and realism. It has the lure of fantasy, but offers so much more. From the moment I read the first line of the novel, I felt sucked in and unable to put it down until I finished.
Often what makes children's chapters books unaccessible to those who have long since moved on is the writing. For a middle grade book, the writing in The Riverman is not too overly simplistic. It is definitely readable for it's target age group, but Starmer's writing doesn't alienate those with higher education. The clarity was refreshing without being dull.
For all the reasons stated above, I give The Riverman 4.5 out of 5 stars. I love this book and intend to share it with everyone, not just children.
And therein concludes my rave. Because I really think you'll just have to read the book to experience it's magic for yourself. It'll only take you a few hours. Go now. I can wait.