The Graveyard Book meets Hatchet in this eerie novel about a boy who is stranded on a mysterious beach, from debut author Samantha M. Clark.
A boy washes up on a mysterious, seemingly uninhabited beach. Who is he? How did he get there? The boy can’t remember. When he sees a light shining over the foreboding wall of trees that surrounds the shore, he decides to follow it, in the hopes that it will lead him to answers. The boy’s journey is a struggle for survival and a search for the truth—a terrifying truth that once uncovered, will force him to face his greatest fear of all if he is to go home.
This gripping adventure will have readers hooked until its jaw-dropping and moving conclusion. Samantha M. Clark’s first novel heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice.
The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast BORN HIS JAW WAS THE FIRST thing to move, back and forth like a seesaw. His teeth rubbed against one another, pushing out the grit between them.
“Unhhh!” The boy’s mouth crinkled.
He tried to open his eyes, but light slapped them shut again.
He felt cold, his back damp. He curled his fingers and was surprised they obeyed. He wriggled his toes, and they wriggled back. He lifted his arms, then felt around his body. Two legs, chest, head, and nose.
Just as it should be.
He pushed up on his elbow, and a sickening feeling erupted in his stomach. Leaning over, he retched, but nothing came.
I don’t feel good. The thought slopped out of his murky mind.
The boy reached down to steady himself and a streak of pain ran up his arm. “Ow.” He pulled it back, glaring at it through squinting eyes. There was no sign of injury. No cuts, or bruises, or scrapes. He pressed down again, but the pain bit back, clamping into his muscle.
“Ow!” His arm must be hurt on the inside, but how? Better not press on it anymore.
His head was sore too—a throbbing pain on one side. His fingers searched for the reason but found only curls of hair.
Struggling to his knees, the boy cautiously pried his eyes fully open, spying on his surroundings through gaps between his fingers.
He was on a beach of golden sand stretched out against the edge of a never-ending blue ocean. Curious waves crept up to him, then retreated, returning seconds later. The beach was cut off to his right by trees so large they hung over the water. Those trees fed into bushes behind him, then more trees and more bushes—a green wall, so thick he couldn’t see through it, carving around the sand as it ran alongside the ocean into the distance to the boy’s left.
That was it. That was all he could see.
The boy dropped his hands, the brightness no longer stabbing his eyes.
Where am I?
The question echoed in his brain and was joined by another.
How did I get here?
He gazed down at his body. He was wearing navy-blue swim shorts and a yellow T-shirt with a pattern on it. Nothing else. Not even shoes. He pulled at the bottom of the shirt so it stretched out before him. Even upside down, he could read the words: IN REAL LIFE I’M A PIRATE. The word “pirate” was curved around a picture of a skull and crossbones.
Skull and crossbones?
The biggest question of all screamed in his mind.
Who am I?
The boy staggered to stand. He was wobbly but stayed upright.
Had he just been born? No, he wouldn’t be wearing shorts and a T-shirt if he had just been born. He wouldn’t even know what shorts and a T-shirt were, or the beach, or trees, or the ocean.
He glanced at the emptiness around him. No ships or boats. Just rolling, white-tipped waves. The sand was clear too. No footsteps showing a path he had walked.
“Hello?” The boy flinched at the sound of his own voice. It was high and croaky, like a tiny frog. He coughed and pinpricks of sand scratched his throat. He stuck his fingers into his mouth and tried to fish them out, but they found nothing. His tongue was no help either.
“Hello?” he called, a bit louder than before. This time his voice was high, but singed with a rasp, like the words had been grated over the sand.
Still no answer came. The water’s edge crept toward him, then backed away. The leaves in the trees purred in the slight breeze.
The boy’s jaw tightened. He couldn’t be alone. Not completely alone. There must be someone near, someone who could hear him.
He dug his feet into the sand, bent his legs as a brace, then gathered his voice from deep within himself.
An explosion came from the depths of the trees. A roar drove over him as every leaf and branch erupted. Riding atop the sound were the high-pitched squawks of thousands of birds, upset that their quiet had been disturbed. They rose up from the tops of the trees, so many that they changed the color of the sky. Circling above him, squawking in frightened, angry bursts.
The boy raised his arms to shield his head. Fear sparked in his belly.
The birds flapped their wings harder. Bones creaked as they stretched with every beat. Their feathers stiffened to sharp, clanging points. The beaks lengthened too, gnashing with loud clack, clack, clacks. The noise grew deafening as the distended birds blocked out the sun.
The boy ran.
But there was nowhere to hide.
He scrambled across the sand away from the birds. But the ground trembled before him. Black spikes of rock shot up in his path, threatening to spear the boy.
Gasping, he turned back, but the birds still swarmed the sky above. The boy ran to the Green Wall. Dark, spooky, but maybe a place to hide. But when he got close, branches twisted and curled, creaking toward him. A loud HIIIIIISSSSSSSSS escaped through the leaves.
The boy cried out, then ran back and back as fast as his feet would take him. He ran until he splashed into the searching fingers of the incoming tide. The water had seemed calm before, but now greedy waves tugged at his ankles.
They wanted him to go in.
They wanted to take him down.
They wanted to drag him beneath
the surface. . . .
The boy fled to the center of the beach, the place where he’d been born. He curled up as small as he could and shut his eyes tight. Everything had turned scary. Everything had turned bad. How was that possible?
“Once upon a time . . . ,” he murmured. “Once upon a time, there was a boy who was hidden.”
He waited for the birds or rocks or trees or water to attack. He waited to be hurt.
But nothing happened. After a while his heart slowed and the roar around him began to hush. The boy cracked one eye open. The birds had shrunk back to their normal size and jetted away behind the Green Wall. The trees swayed quietly in the breeze, their branches pointing to the sky. The sand stretched out along the coast, a pale ribbon that looked as soft as cream. And the ocean waves danced all the way to the horizon.
Quiet fell once again.
The boy’s arms slid shaking to his sides.
He didn’t know who he was or where he was, but he knew he wasn’t safe on this beach.
Samantha M. Clark loves stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances because if four ordinary brothers and sisters can find a magical world at the back of a wardrobe, why can’t she? Until she finds her own real-life Narnia, she writes about other ordinary children and teens who’ve stumbled into a wardrobe of their own. She grew up in different countries around the world and now lives with her husband and two funny dogs in Austin, Texas. Samantha is the regional advisor for the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and she explores wardrobes every chance she gets. Visit her online at SamanthaMClark.com.
The creepy, atmospheric island gives the boy space to work through heavy issues, such as abandonment, death, and toxic masculinity....If readers are brave, like the boy, they will gain strength and insight from their time on the island. An unforgettable, life-affirming tale.
– Booklist, May 1, 2018
In this touching debut, the real-life identity of the menacing wolf is a surprising twist, as is the true nature of the boy’s predicament. Clark writes with a lyrical and appealing rhythm, as she viscerally explores childhood emotions of fear and anxiety relating to bullying, abandonment, and getting lost.
– Publishers Weekly, May 7, 2018
Weighty themes like courage, love, will, and care for the defenseless haunt this archetypal journey. The path is also filled with rich symbols, such as a blanket and the titular beast and boat. With a sharp focus on the isolated protagonist and his internal struggle, it is character development that shines most clearly, though the external environmental dangers and the mystery keep the suspense taut....A poignant story.
– School Library Journal, April 2018
In the process, his journey across the island becomes a modern-day allegory of the powers of fear, resilience and hope. It’s not until the haunting end that the boy, and readers, finally learns how he came to the island and a difficult choice he must make regarding his fate. While The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast can be a quick read, this debut novel should be savored for its atmospheric setting, ominous tension and the beautiful way it brings light to the darker parts of childhood.
– Bookpage, June 26, 2018
Clark’s melodic prose, packed with otherworldly imagery and affecting repetition, effectively sets the boy’s fears in a larger context....This first novel from Clark offers unusual imaginative and emotion-driven introspection, earning its several allusions to The Little Prince.
– BCCB, May 2018
[The boy]’s struggle to overcome his life-threatening fears illuminate how difficult it is to navigate the seas of growing up. His victory is a victory for all of us.
– Kathi Appelt, Newbery Honor-Winning Author of "The Underneath"
The Boy, the Boat, & the Beast is a well-crafted mystery-thriller with interlaced questions, each demanding its own answer. Who is the boy? How did he come to be so all alone? And how will he survive the hideous beast stalking every step he takes? This page-turner takes readers on a journey through one boy’s darkness and redemption, and his determination to outwit a monster that seems to know his terror only too well. With only a precious bit of [fabric] to guide him, he blazes a trail of courage and determination as he refuses to give up on his family—or himself.
The story speaks to the deepest level of heart and psyche, about facing the worst that fear has to offer, about determination and force of will, and about how the threads of love joining families together refuse to fray, despite storms of imperfection, pain, and foolish choices.
– Susan Vaught, Edgar Award-Winning Author of "Footer Davis Probably is Crazy"
"The Boy, the Boat, and the Beastis part action-adventure, part dreamy allegory--a painful, beautiful, mysterious read. Samantha Clark has given us a boy whom we love, fear for, and will not soon forget."
– Liz Garton Scanlon, Author of "The Great Good Summer"
A journey of determination and self discovery, Clark's The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast asks us each to face our deepest, darkest fears. This mysterious gem of a book offers us solace and safety, without one note of false hope. Masterful storytelling.
– Bethany Hegedus, Author of "Grandfather Gandhi"
In this poetic, unique debut, Samantha Clark draws the reader into the story of a castaway boy who has lost everything, including his memories, and is hunted by monsters both inside and out. As the boy desperately scrambles to find his way home, Clark traces lines of fear and hope, courage and despair, in the sand.
The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast is an enchanting exploration of the power that resides in the stories we tell ourselves, and how we can change those stories... and possibly our own destinies. Heart-wrenching and hope-filled.
– Nikki Loftin, Author of "Wish Girl"
Lyrical and heart-catching, The Boy, The Boat, and the Beast is also a page-turner of a mystery with a profoundly satisfying conclusion. A book for any child—or adult—who’s ever had to fight with fear.
– Katherine Catmull, Author of "The Radiant Road"
Lyrical and evocative, The Boy, The Boat, and The Beast offers young readers an emotional connection with a boy who must master his fears in the face of frightening and unnatural monsters. Several unexpected twists during a heart-stopping final act cap Clark's fine debut.
– Janet Fox, author of "The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle"
Lyrical and hauntingly beautiful, this is a story for everyone who’s had to learn to face their fears.
– Jennifer A. Nielsen, Author of "The False Prince"
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