Alexandra’s Letter Essay #2: The Raft

October 27, 2016

I recently finished reading the book The Raft written by S.A. Bodeen. This 231 page suspenseful novel has earned a lot of recognition by various authors and journals. Published in 2012, Bodeen acquired the inspiration to write this book from her past experience of flying over a small island by the name of Midway in a tiny, rickety airplane. Each time she took the flight, she always felt a little frightened because of the length of time they spent over the middle of the ocean. This book has become one of her most well known pieces of writing and has won quite a few of awards. I was left very fascinated after Mrs. Bodeen came to our school to talk to us about all of her novels and how she got the ideas for each of her books. The Raft was the one that interested me the most so I decided to pick it up and see if it really was as good as it seemed. One of my friends also told me that she was completely obsessed with it and had already read it multiple times so I decided to give it a try. Mrs. Bodeen did not prove me wrong because I finished the book in a day.

This story follows the life of Robie Mitchell, a fifteen year old girl that lives on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean called Midway, with a total population of about fifty people, all adults. While visiting her aunt in Hawaii, Robie decides that she is going to stay there the entire summer until she has to go back. Why not stay on a slightly larger island full of people and electricity rather than a place with neither of those things? When her aunt has to go back to LA, Robie convinces her that she can be left alone at the apartment until she comes back. After the first night, a trip to McDonalds, and an encounter with a strange man, she decides to go back to Midway, and with the unsuccessful attempt at trying to call her parents, she boards a cargo plane going back to her island. Cruising smoothly along the sky, all of a sudden some dark clouds begin to form in the path of the plane and turbulence shakes the aircraft. No one is worried; after all there are rough patches of air, right? Suddenly, one engine shuts off and the pilot loses control of the plane. Full of shock, Robie is left at the back of the plane as they are descending closer and closer to the water until finally the copilot comes and throws her out of the plane with nothing but a drawstring bag, a lifevest, and a small yellow raft, saving her life. After the harsh impact with the water and the struggle of getting on the raft, the journey begins of Robie’s ride through the ocean with nothing but a bag of skittles to eat. The realization finally hits her that nobody even knows that she was on that plane because the pilots forgot to fill out her paperwork. Now she has to do everything she can to keep herself alive from the many dangers that the water brings; thirst, (ironic right?), hunger, and of course, sharks.

I was surprised by a revelation that Robie came through about halfway through the book. The copilot that had thrown her off of the plane, Max, had supposedly made it too. Since the book is told in Robie’s perspective, it seemed as if when he threw her off of the plane, he had jumped too because she would constantly talk to him, even though he would never answer. She just described him as “resting” until finally she realizes that she made up his existence on the raft the entire time. He had never jumped off of the plane; she had just imagined him so she would not be alone. I thought it was interesting that Bodeen did this since for a large part of the book, the reader would think that there is another person on the boat when in reality, there is not.

The character development in this story really was extraordinary. Robie started off the novel as a typical rebellious teenager; getting her nose pierced when her parents didn’t allow her too, lying to her aunt, and watching hours on end of TV. Getting stranded in the ocean certainly changed that attitude. Even at the beginning of her journey, her thoughts were mainly focused on the whole unfairness aspect. Only when her hunger and thirst really began to grow did she realize that she actually had to make efforts to stay alive. Near the end of the book, she even ended up helping a baby seal from a mess of a wire net, even though her body profoundly resisted against doing anything that involved physical activity. She really was doing all she could to keep herself going and even came to terms with the idea that even if she did not live, she had had a great life. But even then, she refused to give up hope; it was just an idea, not a reality. Yet.

Overall, I’d say the theme of this book is perseverance. Obviously, being stranded in the middle of the ocean required Robie’s determination to come through, and it did. Her will to survive was only fueled more by the opportunity that she had to prove fate wrong. Even when she felt so weak that she couldn’t bare to move herself, she found a way to stand up and fight. The author was definitely able to portray this theme directly through Robie’s personality, and did a very good job of demonstrating the fight that it takes to get to where you want to go.

A passage that I was struck by in this book was at one of Robie’s lowest points. She was struggling with her thirst and hunger and was getting ready to give up.

“I covered my face with my arms. ‘I’m not gonna make it. I’m not.’

Would my parents ever know what happened to me?

Would anyone?

I rolled on my side. An albatross skeleton lay not far from me, feathers still clinging to the bone. Maybe I would end up like that. Maybe it would be years before anyone stumbled across my body. Maybe, when someone did find me, they wouldn’t even be able to tell who I was.

I put my hands together, praying.  (p. 208)”

I really liked this passage of writing because the author made a really interesting comparison. To believe that you are just like the carcass of a dead bird definitely signifies that you are not feeling like a human. I think that the author was trying to find a way to show how Robie was feeling dead inside; not just from the lack of food or water, but from the fact that it had been ten days now and not even a sign of help. Everything she tried was aggressively opposed either by the environment or nature and knew that she was nearing the end of her rope. I also think that the use of short and simple sentences also enhanced that point. Since these were her thoughts, we realized that she didn’t even have enough energy to compose longer sentences.

All in all, I think that this book was definitely well written, with suspense at every corner of the story. I would give this book a 7 out of 10. Anyone that is looking for a quick and action filled story should definitely choose this book.

-Alexandra Popescu

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4 thoughts on “Alexandra’s Letter Essay #2: The Raft

  1. I really like everything about your letter essay! It was very descriptive and informational. I liked how you included the character development because it told the reader more about the different characters and the what the character relationships were. Another part I liked was how you included theme. There is nothing that I would have changed about your letter essay! It was really good.

    Katharine Burris

  2. Dear Alexandra,

    I really liked reading your letter essay. I did ,my letter essay on The Raft also, and reading yours gave me another interesting perspective on the same book. I too was surprised and kind of confused when Robie brought up the idea that Max wasn’t actually there. It was a strange, but interesting and effective way of getting readers to focus more on the words they were reading and analyzing what was happening. I also thought that you explained your inferences and evidence very well, leaving me to say that there was nothing I would improve on for you letter essay. Nice job.


  3. Dear Alexandra,

    I really liked your letter essay! I was surprised when you said that Max was really dead because I hadn’t really thought about it. When I read the book I did not notice that. I enjoyed reading your summary because it was very detailed. I liked how you explained the book from the beginning to the end without giving away the ending so people can still read it. When I read the book It was not one of my favorite books but I can see why other people like it because it has action and suspense. Overall I really liked your essay!

    Olivia Parcells

  4. Dear Alexandra,

    I really liked your letter essay, it was very descriptive and I really loved how you included that she came to visit our school, which made you pick up the book. I also enjoyed how you gave so many details, yet kept the ending a secret. There is absolutely nothing I would change about your essay. Great job!

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