The sea and sky were our universe, and the boat was our world. A planet that had broken gravity and left its star. Drifting in the inky blue.
5/5 paper planes
What’s This Book About?
Genre: Adventure contemporary (survival story)
Publication: 8 Aug 2019 (Head of Zeus)
Pages: 320 (hardcover)
A young British boy, Bill, narrowly survives a shipwreck during a huge storm off the coast of Morocco. After many days alone at sea in a small boat Bill rescues another survivor, a girl called Aya from the nomadic Berber tribe, whose migrant ship was destroyed by the same storm. Through endless days, a mere speck on the vast, empty sea – hungry, sunburned, and with no idea what will happen next – Aya recounts her own versions of the Arabian Nights. As hope of rescue begins to fade, from Aya’s tales of magic, brave heroes, wily thieves, greedy kings and cruel sultans, they find the strength they need to stay alive.
When they land on a desert island they’re confronted by a strange young man who is not what he seems… and back out on the waves once more in the dark deep, a shadow follows and waits…
Content warnings: extremes of thirst and hunger; violence, injury and death; sharks; hospitals
This was utterly absorbing from start to finish. I could easily have binged this if I’d had a spare day to just spend on reading! (And isn’t that cover just stunning?)
Bill and Aya are very compelling characters, especially as we’re meeting them under such life/death circumstances. The situations they need to respond to meant they had to showcase very full-saturation personalities, and their willpower to survive was honestly palpable. I loved the layered development of their friendship, a forever bond wrapped around with mutual life debts, Aya’s Arabian Nights retellings, and fending off threats from sky, land, sea and human alike. I really liked how Bill and Aya gradually learned bits of each other’s language, as well as the slow unpeeling of Aya’s backstory. Subtly done and this badass girl is one of the biggest reasons to read this book. Another great thing was that even the minor characters had a strong character voice! Obviously Bill and Aya dominate the story, but it’s nice when other characters feel like more than just filler or stock.
The plot never felt boring or repetitive despite being largely centred around ‘what happens next for these kids marooned on a boat?’ and ‘what happens next for these kids marooned on an island’? – which I thought was a pretty amazing feat of writing. The plot pacing was excellent, hooks in the reader like a fish on a line and I certainly experienced my share of OMG moments. What surprised me most was probably the way I suddenly burst into tears near the end (and kept crying even after I finished). I got so attached to both Bill and Aya and my heart was just so overwhelmed!
“Live. Long life. Live. Do not die. Live. I beg you.”
This was literally me, with my sister staring at me in confusion from across the dining table
Vick writes simply yet so vividly, and I really felt everything the characters were feeling, even when it’s from the POV of a minor character just observing!
An incredible story of survival, humanity and hope, threaded through with magical tales like jewels on a necklace, defies the imagination yet somehow remained completely believable. It reminded me a little of ‘Life of Pi’ (another excellent read) and also reminds me never to go sailing…I have a sizeable fear of the open ocean… I think this is marketed towards an MG/YA audience, but I’d recommend this for all ages. Certainly one of my 2020 favourites!
And so what now? What is the end of our story? The story of the girl and the boy and the sea.
Do you think I know?
^ I remember highlighting that quote above while struggling to see through my tears HAHAHA
Me after finishing this book…
Thank you to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for the ebook for an honest review.