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Book review: Red Kayak: Did it sink or float?

Updated: May 6, 2021

Title: Red Kayak

By: Priscilla Cummings

Age recommendation: Young Adult

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What's about?

Brady was happy with his life as a watermen's son. He had two best friends and was even making friends with the controversial well to do new comers to town, a family by the name of DiAngelos. But destiny was about to throw a huge curve ball to Brady one April morning.

While Brady and his best friends, J.T and Digger wait for their ride to school, the happen to notice the DiAngelos' family red kayak and the boys debate about weather or not to warn Mr. DiAngelo, who they believed to be riding the kayak, that a storm was coming in and that, because of that, the waters may not be safe. But the boys decided not to, believing that Mr. DiAngelos knew what he was doing but Brady was soon proved wrong when he was picked up from school early by his father to join a search party in search for Mrs. DiAngelo and their three year old son who had disappeared while out in the kayak.

Brady eagerly jumps into his boat to search for the little boy he's bonded with during his stint as the three year old's babysitter but isn't quite prepared for what he finds and is devastated when he learns, a couple of days later, that despite him finding Ben DiAngelos and fighting to save the little boy's life, Ben lost the battle a few days after his rescue.

Losing Ben is hard enough, but what happens when he learns that maybe the freak kayak accident may not have been quite what it seemed?

What did I think?

This book took me on an emotional roller coaster, and I'm not sure it was the roller coaster I was intended to get on. The first dip in the roller coaster was when Brady pulled Ben out of the water. The first thought to cross my mind was, "I'm no okay with dying or severely mistreated kids! I'm done!" and, if I had not promised myself I was going to review this book, I would have put it down, but I had so I didn't.

But I began to feel better when Brady learned about Ben's death and one of the first thoughts he had was, "Ben will never drink milk ever again!" There was just something about the truth in the grief in which that thought came from that made me believe in the book again. And, for the most part, the book did continue to illustrate grief in a real, yet simplified way and I appreciated that.

Personally, as someone who has experienced loss more then once, I think that grief is such a hard emotion to navigate and it comes in some unexpected ways. It's hard to put into words and impossible to understand unless you, yourself, has experienced it first hand. It's a tornado of emotions and thoughts...and they don't all make logical sense. Experiencing grief for the first time, in any traumatic way, as a child can make the experience even more confusing for the child, and can be just as hard for the child's parents to clear a path for.

I guess that's where the rest of the dips stem from. I bounced from thinking, "that's so true of grief!" to "Oh my goodness! Why is everyone telling him to move on?!" and then from, "Why aren't his parents talking to him about it and opening up the conversation?!" to "Well, I guess they just didn't know how to." :Like I said, a roller coaster ride.

But in the end, I think I came out of it appreciating the journey all of the characters went on, even if I was annoyed with the way some of them responded. I think, while at times hard emotionally, it spoke to the world and experience of grief, peer pressure and illustrates how horrible things can go when you don't think through what you do before you do it.

While I don't think I will reading this book again and I had some big issues with the actions and logic of a number of the characters, but in the end, I was happy with the destination. I thought, over all, it was a sweet, yet simplified tale of grief, guilt and how it drives you but also how, even veterans have a hard time helping others through the dark woods of loss. It is also an example of how peer pressure and the words others say can seep into your head and slither around, contaminating every thought it touches.

Also, please note, that I also realize that the simplicity I mention is exactly what it should be to be accessible for the age group this book is targeting.

How do I rate this book?

I would rate this book a....

2.5 out of 5 Legos

Now that I've shared with you what I think, tell us what you think! Did you love it? Did you hate it? Do you want to read it yourself or know someone who you want to give it to?

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