In his coming-of-age novel, The River, author Michael Neale tells of Gabriel Clarke and his sometimes literally tumultuous relationship with The River. Gabriel has suffered great loss at the hands of The River, yet feels a strange fascination with it. Neale explores love and loss, fear and courage, forgiveness and heroism in this quick summer read.
While the language is a bit sappy at points and the dialogue is less than stellar, the story that Neale tells is a timeless one. As a "timeless" story, it more than occasionally tips over into the realm of cliche, it is compelling enough to keep the reader turning the pages. Its light, airy style make the story easy to follow, even when it feels a bit meandering.
There is nothing ground-breaking about this little novel, but it would really shine in the hand of a young adult reader. In fact, my next order of business is to pass this one on to my 13 year old to read. There is plenty of adventure and angst, as well as a healthy order of growing pains held in its pages. The themes are wholesome and important ones - something I find to be of the utmost importance in a good teen reader. It even includes a readers' guide in the back that would be ideal for a classroom or small group setting - perhaps even the dining room table.
I wasn't sold at the beginning of this book, but it grew on me as I read and began to think about what target audience might get the most out of it. My biggest hurdles were the mediocre writing and the anachronistic features such as a the idea of an "adventure camp" that must have been founded in the 1920's or '30's. Several characters, themes and symbols were left entirely unresolved at the end of the book.
Oh and there is the whole "corn in Kansas" thing that always sends me up a wall- it's wheat in Kansas, people. The only book I ever read that treated Kansas appropriately (Cassie Draws the Universe) was written by a friend I grew up with. . . IN KANSAS. I don't know what it is with this fascination non-Kansans have with Kansas, but I digress.
If you're looking for a fast (I read it in under 2 days without really trying) summer read or a good book to pass on to a teen in your life, you should go pick up a copy of The River today. Or tomorrow. But don't wait longer than that because summer's going to be over before you know it.
Note: I was provided a free review copy of this book by the publisher. That by no means affected my review of this book and all opinions and completely and totally mine.
Buy this book on Amazon