Surrounded by Sharks by Michael Northrup Book Review

Surrounded by Sharks by Michael Northrup
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: May 27, 2014

Stuck in a small hotel room with his family on the beginning of their vacation, Davey decides to sneak out and find a quieter less stinky place to relax and read. Still early, Davey encounters no one as he makes his way to a secluded beach on the island. Not much of a swimmer, but wanting to at least enjoy his private beach, Davey ignores the "No Swimming" sign and goes in for a quick dip. What he didn't take see though was the rip tide that is slowly pulling him further from the shore. By the time he realizes what is happening, it is too late and he is being sucked out into the ocean. And there is something else too. Something circling below the surface, watching, waiting.

The things in this book are the very reason why I do not swim in the ocean. Period. Not only do I hate the beach, but I absolutely loathe the open ocean. Rip tides, sharks, jellyfish, salt water. I find absolutely nothing redeeming about it and this book only helped reiterate my irrational fears.

This is Michael Northrup's strength too. He takes these situations, like blizzards and swimming in the ocean and in a Jack London like style, deftly weaves together a man vs. nature tale. The narrative jumps back and forth between Davey, his family, and a girl who was the only person who saw Davey before he disappeared, and even a shark. Knowing what Davey is going through on the ocean as he clings to a plastic water jug and sharks circling below his feet, adds an immediacy and frustration with the other characters. Davey is barely surviving while his family casually searches through the island for him, completely missing his glasses and book on the secluded beach. Davey's brother, Brandon becomes frustrated by the many miscommunications and the fact that the grown-ups don't want to listen to him. Their concern for their son is real, but until 2/3 of the way through the book, they still believe that Davey has simply run off. This tension is beyond frustrating, but is a very important element in the pacing of the narrative. I was practically flying through the book in the end as the race was on as to whether the Coast Guard or the shark was going to get to Davey first. The end is action-packed although a bit tidy and not to ruin the ending, but I am okay with people not getting eaten by sharks.

A very solid adventure story with some interesting and relateable characters. I would consider this one to be a good read for those who are getting a bit old for the middle grade books, but may not be ready for the more intense (and depressing) young adult ones.