Read: as part of the pre-college TBR cleanout
Reading time: two days
From GoodReads: Shortly after the end of WWII, sixteen-year-old Erich Linden and his family have fled Germany and joined Erich's uncle, Klaus, in Venezuela, where they will begin a new life. But, en route to Klaus's outpost further inland, they encounter a storm and their plane crashes in the middle of the jungle. Stranded deep within Amazonia with no hope of rescue, they are discovered by the Yayomi, a violent and superstitious Stone Age tribe. The Yayomi believe the strange looking foreigners are freshwater dolphins in human form-and the Lindens believe that as long as they can keep up the bizarre ruse they'll be safe. But the jungle is a dark, mysterious place, and no place for a family of sham dolphin-people who are ultimately left with only two choices: to escape or to die trying.
My review: At first, I thought The Dolphin People was going to be just another decent read. The premise was intriguing enough, and I was surprised by the characters' Nazi leanings and wondering how that would figure into the story. I didn't particularly like the characters; Zeppi, the younger brother, was babyish and immature, while Erich irritatingly fluctuated being naive and pusillanimous with thinking he was so grown-up and mature. When the family first crash-landed in the jungle, the time sequence was compressed and then confusing, lending a rushed feeling to the unfolding of the plot as the characters adapted.
But, given the rest of the book, these are small inconveniences found only at the beginning. The rest of the novel - both writing and story - is pretty amazing. I found it hard to put down, because I simply had to keep reading in order to find out what happened next. The plot wasn't necessarily fast-paced as much as it was just utterly intriguing and engrossing. I expected the novel to have almost a magical, enchanted feel to it (blame the odd plot synopsis and the cover), yet the readers' first encounters with the Linden family and the Yayomi are fairly gritty and realistic. Increasingly, though, as madness, love, and desperation set in, the almost bizarre sequence of events did allow for that pleasant aura of distance which I so love. The events of the book are entirely within the realm of possibility, yet their sequential occurrences seem so improbable as to give an almost magical realist feel to the story - without any actual magic, of course.
Add this to my list of favorites for this year. There seem to be a lot of them this summer.
Reminds me of: The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean (2007), Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch (2011), and Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2001)
All coming-of-age survivalist stories.