Jess, at the age of 15, deeply loves her grandfather who is an artist, even though he is often stubborn and difficult. After he took ill in a terrible accident, he insisted on traveling as planned with Jess and her parents back to the place he grew up. It is by a river in Braymouth that he is determined to finish his beloved painting called “River Boy.” This painting mystifies his family, who sees the river but no image of a boy. Jess, who loves to swim, begins to sense a mysterious presence on the river. Then she begins to see the river boy himself, waiting for her, asking for her assistance in a special mission, while her grandfather turns more frail Jess becomes closer to the strange boy and finds out how similar they really are.
River Boy, by Tim Bowler is a great book, even more than I was expecting. I enjoyed the ongoing interweaving of magic and reality. This book has some fantasy elements, but they’re barely present. The setting itself feels magical – it’s an unspecified location in England. All it says about the location is that it’s isolated and there are cottages and hills and a river. However, the way Tim Bowler describes the surrounding nature makes it feel real. Another important aspect in this anecdote is the bond between Jess and her Grandfather, which is portrayed very admiringly. Jess’ Grandfather is brisk and at times an unpleasant man. Nonetheless, he and Jess have a special connection, and thanks to this connection, he is able to be vulnerable in front of her and accept help when he needs it. Thoughtful readers will easily predict the ending. Readers who do not, though, may tire of the repetition family dithering over an old man who is tyrannical and self-absorbed. Sadly, his decline makes for reading to be more painful than engrossing. Overall I would recommend this book to children between the ages of 12-15, who have a sense of adventure, but are willing to sit through many chapters of suspense and detail.