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The Riverman (The Riverman Trilogy) Hardcover – March 18, 2014

4.4 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Riverman Trilogy Series

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 4–8—This novel built of stories yields nightmares. Alistair's first memory is seeing a drowned, missing child floating in the river. He tells no one and grows into a tween who has a talent for keeping secrets. Fiona, his neighbor, chooses him to share hers: kids are missing, and the Riverman, from the parallel, timeless world of Aquavania, where stories are born, is the accused. Is this some kind of fantasy created to cope with a reality too grim to bear? Or are the missing kids simply runaways? The pace accelerates when Fiona confides in an exhumed letter that she might be next. The portal in this book is not only into Aquavania, through Fiona's stories dictated to Alistair, but also into the characters' convoluted adolescent world. Alistair turns to 18-year-old Kyle, the town's emotionally complex, daredevil dropout, for advice and muscle. Meanwhile, Charlie, Alistair's childhood friend of convenience, has become a gaming addict, and their friendship is unraveling. This writerly, chiaroscuro book is replete with the portent of violence, and thick with ideas about the psychological need for stories, all while questioning the ability of stories to redeem the tellers. Readers will find themselves confronted with deep, unanswered questions regarding the relationship of collective imaginary worlds to reality, the evolving nature of memories and friendships, and the unknowability of people. Those ready to explore darker realities will devour this book.—Sara Lissa Paulson, The American Sign Language and English Lower School, New York City

From Booklist

When Fiona Loomis shows up at Alistair’s door asking him to pen her biography and begins to tell him of a strange land she’s visited called Aquavania, Alistair isn’t sure he believes any of it. But he’s intrigued and can’t stop himself from wanting to know more. Fiona warns Alistair that the Riverman is stealing the souls of children and that she is next. Alistair, drawn into Fiona’s story, wants to protect her—if only he can discover the full truth. In this dark, twisting tale, readers are never sure if Fiona’s story is true or not, and they won’t want to stop reading until they find out. Alistair is a relatable hero, struggling with what to believe while growing up and moving on from old friends. While the ending is left a bit up in the air, this magical tale is sure to please readers of urban fantasy, and with its theme of missing children and changing friendships, it will be perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and Charles de Lint, too. Grades 6-9. --Sarah Bean Thompson
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 9
  • Lexile Measure: 730L (What's this?)
  • Series: The Riverman Trilogy (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (March 18, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374363099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374363093
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #742,359 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on March 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover
When a book has worked its way into your cranium and is making a home for itself within the darker recesses of your very soul, the natural inclination is to talk to somebody about it. And when that book was ostensibly written for kids, all the more reason. That’s the problem with my job as a children’s librarian. Sometimes I’m the only person I know who has read one book or another and I have to wait patiently in the interim. Usually this isn’t a problem, but once in a while a novel like The Riverman comes along and it’s all that I can do to keep myself from forcing it into the hands of family and friends repeatedly with desperate cries of “Read this, PLEASE!” emanating from my lips. Reviewing is the best possible therapy in these cases, so buckle up, kids. What we’re dealing with here is a book of contradictions worth noting and reading and loving and hating by turns. Mature stuff, to say the least.

What do you do when the girl next door asks you to write her biography? If you’re Alistair Cleary you’re initially quite flattered. Then, as you hear her story, that sense of pride may begin to fade. When Fiona Loomis informs Alistair that he needs to hear her tale because she regularly escapes to a magical land called Aquavania where a villain called The Riverman is waiting to steal her soul, he’s understandably perturbed. It seems far more likely that the creepy uncle living in her house is the source of these dark fantasies and the boy becomes determined to save her. Yet as more time goes on, Alastair begins to notice unnerving parallels between Aquavania and the small town in which he lives. Parallels that begin to suggest there’s more to Fiona’s story than anyone could possibly imagine.

First and foremost, we’re going to have to face facts here.
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Format: Paperback
The Riverman has many appealing elements, especially for those of us who like fantasies -- a girl who travels to another world, a boy who gets drawn into this girl's alternate reality, and a very creepy villain who is stealing souls. Sadly, these three things converged into a story that, though I finished it, failed to really leave an impression.

The one thing I did enjoy about this book is the imagination that went into it. In particular, the world of Aquavania, a world where stories are born from the mind of each new visitor, is supremely creative. The idea that one can control what their world is like, complete with inhabitants and activities, is attractive (especially if you're an aspiring author).

It also comes with a nasty villain in the form of the Riverman, who sounds positively evil. Would it be strange to say that the Riverman is my favorite character? Because he is, even though he barely appears for most of the novel. The fact that he represents the imminent death of anything imagined in Aquavania is creepy, which is just the way I like bad guys to be.

Apart from the inventive content, The Riverman just kind of... existed. There's a story, one that combines events in the real world with events in Aquavania (as retold by Fiona). I didn't particularly connect with our narrator Alistair or the fanciful Fiona, as there were parts where I was simply uninterested in what was going on. So, the story went on, and I kept reading, but there was really no emotional attachment.

If there's one thing that surprises me about The Riverman, it's the darkness of its content for a novel for children. There are mature topics - drinking, drugs, kidnapping, murder among them - included.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book isn't perfect, but I LOVED it.

The first thing I noticed was that the tone was way too mature for a 12-year-old. It sounds like an adult is narrating it. While this is justifiable because Alistair is telling the story from a possibly distant future perspective, it still may be difficult for kids to get into. Nevertheless, I felt like Alistair's feelings, choices and reactions fell steadily into middle grade territory, which was enough for me to buy into his character. Some say the love stuff was a bit much for a 12-year-old, and I could see that, but as I recall a lot of emotions (particularly love) are a bit over the top for middle schoolers, so it was not a problem for me. I DO think the story would be stronger if it were more of a friendship love rather than a romantic love. It works, though.

Although it may be mature, I believe the tone is one of the novel's biggest strengths. It is consistent, ominous and tense. Starmer's expert use of misdirection provides incredible momentum, and I felt like Starmer did a great job of pacing, regularly dropping hints at a tragic future. At the same time he gives plenty of very candid moments to develop the characters. There are plenty of asides and anecdotes that aren't necessarily vital for the plot, but they are used superbly to build tension and promote the tone. They are also interesting enough on their own merit to prevent me from ever feeling bored or wanting to get back to the "real" story. I felt like the tragedy of Charlie blowing his hands off or Alistair almost being hit by the car felt genuine, as I felt all of the details of this story were very convincing. The way Alistair describes his love for Fiona, for example, seemed very authentic.
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