The Riverman (The Riverman #1)

Featured
 
5.0
 
5.0 (1)
2023 1
The Riverman (The Riverman #1)
Author(s)
Age Range
10+
Release Date
March 18, 2014
ISBN
9780374363093
Buy This Book
      

Alistair Cleary is the kid who everyone trusts. Fiona Loomis is not the typical girl next door. Alistair hasn't really thought of her since they were little kids until she shows up at his doorstep with a proposition: she wants him to write her biography. What begins as an odd vanity project gradually turns into a frightening glimpse into the mind of a potentially troubled girl. Fiona says that in her basement, there’s a portal that leads to a magical world where a creature called the Riverman is stealing the souls of children. And Fiona’s soul could be next. If Fiona really believes what she’s saying, Alistair fears she may be crazy. But if it’s true, her life could be at risk. In this novel from Aaron Starmer, it’s up to Alistair to separate fact from fiction, fantasy from reality.

Editor reviews

1 reviews

A Must for Fans of Coraline
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
What I Loved:
The blurb of The Riverman pulled me in but also repelled me. How can I not be intrigued by a book that name-drops such awesome titles. But, by the same token, the audacity! It’s not necessarily a good idea to draw comparisons to Carroll, Lewis, and Gaiman, because that sets a seriously high bar. In this case, though, the blurb was spot on. The fantastical other-worldness of Lewis, the weirdness of Carroll, and the creep-factor of Gaiman combine in The Riverman.

To be clear, though I see the parallels, The Riverman never felt derivative. Starmer was inspired by a lot of things (he’s even blogged about them) but his creations shines with originality and cleverness. The Riverman is the sort of middle grade fiction that is just as enjoyable for adults, the kind that has an eerie magic no matter what your age might be. The writing is intelligent, and the book isn’t written down. It’s dark and high concept.

To be honest, I still don’t have everything in The Riverman figured out. The first and last chapters basically have me entirely stymied. Obviously, this is a book I’ll need to revisit through the years and I have every expectation of finding new things each time. Though it’s a quick read, it’s also densely packed with meaning and questions. This is a book for the ambitious child and for teens and adults who still love to be charmed by the power of the imagination.

Personally, I almost always like my middle grade fiction to be about highly intelligent kids. The Riverman falls into this category. I know some people feel like that’s a bit unrealistic, but, as an adult, those are the middle grade novels I find compelling. Nothing’s obvious. When the middle graders aren’t of above average intelligence, the plot twists are usually so clear from page one. In The Riverman, I was constantly staring at the book in disbelieving wonder, because Starmer kept blowing my mind, both with twists and darkness.

Be prepared for the coup of a century! No, wait. Sorry. Be prepared for something seriously dark. The Riverman falls just short of depressing. I mean, the whole thing is about the Riverman, who is going around the world and killing children. That’s pretty macabre stuff. Of course, I’m a firm believer in kids being able to handle some of that, as the success of Gaiman’s children’s books proves. Those are a good readalike for the dark and creepy aspects.

Alistair, the main character, is sort of blind-sided by Fiona Loomis. He didn’t know her well, and she’s suddenly forcing her way into his life, asking him to write her biography. She also insists that she’s several months older than her birthday would suggest. She begins to unfold her tale of another world, a world of pure imagination called Aquavania. My favorite part was the question of whether she was speaking truthfully or whether everything was a manifestation of some sort of abuse. Really deep psychological stuff.

What Left Me Wanting More:
There were a few things that left me scratching my head. I already mentioned the ending, which is rather open and I just really want to know what was happening exactly. Then there’s Fiona’s age. She’s constantly asserting what her true age, and she’s very positive that she’s precisely fourteen or whatever. How is she tracking time so accurately in her alternate world. Does time pass the same way it does here? Is she very good at keeping a calendar? Does she account for leap years? It just seemed strange to me, because I feel like I would automatically lose track of how long I’d been there, but I’ve always been horrid with dates.

The Final Verdict:
Do you have a vast imagination and love to think about the worlds it could create? Do you like middle grade novels that will creep you out and make you think? If yes, then you need The Riverman in your life, I promise.
Report this review Comments (0) | Was this review helpful to you? 0 0

User reviews

1 reviews

Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0  (1)
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A  (0)
Already have an account? or Create an account
Believing is Seeing
(Updated: March 22, 2015)
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
It's been difficult trying to think about how to describe Aaron Starmer's The Riverman because I loved it so much, maybe too much. This book feels like my literary soulmate and I can't help but gush over the way it consumed my life while reading it.

If I'm being honest, I probably could've finished this book in a day, but instead, I savored it for thirteen, leaving less than a hundred pages for more than a week. I even told my best friend that this was quite possibly the best written book I've read all year. He couldn't really believe me and waited till I was done to confirm such admissions. But yes, I still agree.

The book begins in a haunting sort of way, noting that "every town has a lost child." Thessaly, NY is just like any other town in that they too have a lost child and the narrator, Alistair Cleary, remembers finding him long, long ago. And while our twelve year old narrator begins to tell us his story, or rather the story of Fiona Loomis, there is a sophistication to his storytelling that is at times stark and unsettling.

Going back to my journal now, there are twenty-eight quotes that I recorded to try to preserve my memory of this book. And in a way, I think this is what Aaron Starmer would want his readers to do, creating, in essence, their own Aquavania's; their own stories, their own worlds. Starmer is a storyteller. There's no denying that. That is why this book is so powerful. You can feel how important stories are because Alistair believes in them, Fiona believes in them, and so do I.

I'm not sure if being a writer made me love this book more. There's a very good chance that's true. But I think young or old, this book will appeal to anyone. The times seem simpler in this book, a late eighties landscape filled with kids riding bikes and that small town feel that even living in a small town now, I don't quite have anymore. But with this simplicity, comes a kind of terror. Without technology, what happens when children just disappear?

Sure today children go missing all the time. Some are never found. But many are because of the technological advances we have. Without that technology, I felt terrified of this world that Alistair and the other characters inhabited. I felt scared for them.

Even amidst detailed storytelling, I still had a difficult time discerning between fact and fiction, which also scared me. For a book that I believed to be fantasy, ready to be swallowed up by rivers and men who feast upon it's children, I did not doubt Fiona. But Alistair did, leaving me torn between them. Alistair says, "stories taunted me. Even ones I didn't believe dared me to see them through the end." I know this to be true both in my life as a writer, but as an avid reader as well. And I was hooked throughout this whole book.

While some of the quotes resonated with me from a storytelling aspect, there were others that simply broke my heart. Admissions of guilt, of betrayal, of love; all of them broke me. And I've had a hard time untangling myself from this world. I can't wait to see how this continues in the next two books of the trilogy.

Until then, I think I might still be obsessing over the beautifully written words from this book. That's the thing about being a writer. I don't think it works if you don't absolutely love words. I could stare at some of these sentences all day. Lines such as: "I got my inspiration from the things in life that I feared to be true and the things in life that I hoped to be true," or "your mind is constantly wishing, even if you don't realize it. It's all in there somewhere," and "the meaning of a memory can change, even when the details remain the same," and even "but for today, let's pretend. For today, let's believe that anything is possible."

One sentence I just can't forget does not come from Fiona or Alistair. I won't disclose who says this in case you want the mystery: "Maybe someday you'll realize that goodbye can often be the best thing. Even when you're crazy about the person." This quote meant so much more after I finished the book because I really felt like I was saying goodbye to some of my favorite people. I'm going to miss Alistair so much, yet knowing that he lives within the pages of this book made saying goodbye easier. I know we'll meet again soon.

Starmer's writing style is lovely and lyrical and never downgrades the beauty of the English language because it's written for children. If anything, this book is more important because it's a children's book. I think our world needs more books like this to prove that children's literature, as well as young adult literature, is just as important as the classics.

I urge all of you to read this book this year. Whether you like contemporary fiction or fantasy, this book will appeal to you! So put this at the top of your list and I know your year will be great!
Report this review Comments (1) | Was this review helpful to you? 0 0
Powered by JReviews

FEATURED GIVEAWAYS

Latest Book Listings Added

Strong Voices: Fifteen American Speeches Worth Knowing
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
Strong Voices: Fifteen American Speeches Worth Knowing is a collection...
Bernard Makes a Splash
 
3.0
 
0.0 (0)
A heartwarming story from textile designer and illustrator Lisa Stickley...
Wild Girl: How to Have Incredible Outdoor Adventures
 
4.5
 
0.0 (0)
Calling wild girls everywhere! Helen Skelton – adventurer, world-record breaker...
Stanley's Paint Box
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
It’s another busy day with Stanley and friends! ...
The Unleashed
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
In the terrifying sequel to The Haunted, Hendricks discovers that...
Paint by Sticker Kids: Dinosaurs: Create 10 Pictures One Sticker at a Time!
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
Create pictures of 10 awesome dinosaurs... with stickers! ...
Tad
Tad
 
4.5
 
0.0 (0)
From Benji Davies, the award-winning creator of The Storm Whale...
Go Get 'Em, Tiger! (A Hello!Lucky Book)
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
The perfect picture book to celebrate every milestone from the...
A World of Opposites
 
4.3
 
0.0 (0)
From ALONE and TOGETHER to ABOVE and BELOW, Gray Malin’s...
The Voting Booth
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
From Stonewall Award-winning author Brandy Colbert comes an all-in-one-day love...
Now & When
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
For fans of Jenny Han and Christine Riccio comes a...
Dating Makes Perfect
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
The Tech sisters don’t date in high school. Not because...
Now That I've Found You
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Now That I've Found You is a YA novel about...
Entwined
 
0.0
 
0.0 (0)
Sometimes love gets a bit twisted. ...
A Girl in Three Parts
 
4.0
 
0.0 (0)
I can split myself in two . . . something...
The Lost City (The Omte Origins, #1)
 
4.3
 
0.0 (0)
Amanda Hocking, the New York Times bestselling author of...

Latest Member Reviews

Sick Kids in Love
 
4.7
"This book is definitely not like The Fault in Our Stars nor Six Feet Apart, or any other book about..."
A Girl in Three Parts
 
4.0
"A GIRL IN THREE PARTS by Suzanne Daniel is a novel set in Sydney, Australia during the 1970’s. It follows..."
Goddess in the Machine (Goddess in the Machine, #1)
 
5.0
"Andra went into cryonic sleep for a hundred years for a trip across the universe to wake up as a..."
Honor Lost (The Honors, #3)
 
3.3
"HONORS LOST continues the Honors series as Zara, crew, and friends head out on a mission to stop the horrors..."
10 Things I Hate About Pinky
 
4.3
"10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT PINKY is a cute YA romance that features a fake-turned-real relationship and opposites-attract couple. Pinky..."
Not Another Love Song
 
5.0
"Different than I was expecting - and that’s a good thing! The story: All..."
Jo & Laurie
 
3.3
"Jo March is surprised at how well her novel LITTLE WOMEN has done. Now her publisher and readers want a..."
An Enchantment of Ravens
 
2.3
"I'm not very into reading fantasy (so I might not be the best person to review this). But I was..."
Cracked Up To Be
 
3.7
"Cracked up to be is an unsettling tale of a girl on the cusp of a mental breakdown for over..."
The Morning Flower (The Omte Origins, #2)
 
4.0
"THE MORNING FLOWER continues the OMTE ORIGINS story as Ulla continues to search for her heritage and for the missing..."
None of the Above
 
4.3
"This is one of those books that a reader can learn from. This is the first YA book that I..."
The Lost City (The Omte Origins, #1)
 
4.3
"THE LOST CITY is a highly engaging YA fantasy read about Ulla, a troll. Trolls are secretive creatures who live..."
Layoverland
 
5.0
"'Layoverland' by Gabby Noone, despite being about a teenager who has died, ironically creates a very inviting atmosphere for readers..."
Summer and July
 
5.0
"'Summer and July' by Paul Mosier is a beautifully written story perfect for summer reading. Readers will find themselves immersed..."
A Wicked Magic
 
4.0
"Friends Dan and Liss find a Black book of magic and try a spell. Only the spell goes terribly..."
Scarlet Odyssey
 
3.3
"SCARLET ODYSSEY is a high fantasy that takes place in a world at war. Men are often raised to be..."
Tigers, Not Daughters
 
5.0
"TIGERS, NOT DAUGHTERS is a lyrical book of sisterhood and grief. The Torres sisters had tried to escape their father..."
Tyler Johnson Was Here
 
4.0
"The fallout and protests following police choking George Floyd to death in Minnesota has consumed social media for the last..."
when you were everything
 
4.3
"WHEN YOU WERE EVERYTHING by Ashley Woodfolk is a YA Contemporary novel told in two timelines, “then” and “now.” The..."
Path of Night (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, #3)
 
5.0
"PATH OF NIGHT is another great installment of the books based on the Netflix show, CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA. This..."