A young girl named Emily lives with her parents who are doctors in Sumatra, and like any regular thirteen year old, acts out against her feelings of being misplaced and ignored. So she runs away to join her uncle on another island and hops aboard an overcrowded ferry, only to be tossed with 400 other people into the ocean when the vessel tips over and sinks. The majority of the book then chronicles her struggle to stay alive while waiting to be rescued.
While based on true events, sometimes bits of the story feel far-fetched and are hard to believe, more so in the thought process of the character than the events themselves. At one point while floating in the ocean, the reader finds Emily contemplating serious philosophical topics such as the conflict between science and religion. While the ideas she espouses are intriguing, it still gave me pause. Realistically speaking, is this what a young girl would be thinking of while attempting to survive the dangers of the ocean? While the boredom factor of floating in the open water alone is obvious, one would think her mind would wander to more age-appropriate and likely topics. This made me disconnect from Emily as a character, which is a shame, since I assume the intent of the author was to try and establish a connection and relatable quality between Emily and the reader.
Another trait that stood out throughout the course of the story was the scope of Emily's resourcefulness. One has to wonder if even an adult could be capable of her strength and ingenuity if placed in the same predicament. The difficulty of determining that is that most readers, if any, will be able to use personal experience to determine that. It is impossible to determine what anyone has the potential to do when we are faced with no other choice.
The writing is engaging and keeps the reader cheering for Emily to pull through. The simple language is sometimes blunt when dealing with the some of the difficult choices and images she experiences, so that one may cringe or shudder when imagining it for themselves, yet still retains some hope.
In short, I would recommend this as a quick and interesting read, but I would take the realism of the text with a grain of salt.