Enid’s life is dramatic enough before she ends up stranded on a raft in shark-infested waters with her friends. Her boyfriend Wick wants to take a break, her mom’s wedding business is keeping her busier than ever, and Enid’s lothario father is trying to make amends with his family. Yet all this takes the proverbial backseat as the group of teens grapple with exposure, dehydration, and the very real threat of being eaten by sharks.
The problem with Tracy’s book lies mostly with its misleading cover and title. The brightness of the book’s jacket and its mostly lighthearted title tell the reader that this will be a quick, quirky read. The actual experience is somewhat different. While it is a quick read, the rest is pretty deceptive, because this is a sad, often scary book. Readers who go in expecting a fun summer read are going to be disappointed.
Of course, it is this deception that ultimately does the book a disservice, because there are some very good things happening in Tracy’s book. Because the group of teens on the raft are all sets of twins, Tracy is able to delve into the dynamics of these siblings complex relationships and explore what happens when they’re put in life-threatening situations. There are some very tender, very real moments between the characters. Much of this is accomplished through the dialogue, which Tracy excels at.
It’s not all good news, though. Tracy has chosen some strange, distracting names for her characters (Wick, Skate, and Burr are three such names). The writing is uneven at times, and there are some pretty serious plot holes in the story that some readers aren’t going to be able to ignore. To add insult to injury, Enid is one of the most irritating, unlikable protagonists to be found in YA literature today: she’s selfish, immature, and implacable. While part of this was certainly Tracy’s intent, Enid’s genuine issues are overshadowed by her downright grating personality. This is going to put some readers off the story.
Despite my reservations about the plausibility of this story, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. As someone who has a fascination with survival stories, this book will work well for readers looking for a bit of wild adventure. Recommended for reluctant readers.
Sharks & Boys by Kristen Tracy. Hyperion: 2011. Library copy.