Book Review: Whalefall by Daniel Kraus
Publisher’s Book Description:
Whalefall is a scientifically accurate thriller about a scuba diver who’s been swallowed by an eighty-foot, sixty-ton sperm whale and has only one hour to escape before his oxygen runs out.
Jay Gardiner has given himself a fool’s errand—to find the remains of his deceased father in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Monastery Beach. He knows it’s a long shot, but Jay feels it’s the only way for him to lift the weight of guilt he has carried since his dad’s death by suicide the previous year.
The dive begins well enough, but the sudden appearance of a giant squid puts Jay in very real jeopardy, made infinitely worse by the arrival of a sperm whale looking to feed. Suddenly, Jay is caught in the squid’s tentacles and drawn into the whale’s mouth where he is pulled into the first of its four stomachs. He quickly realizes he has only one hour before his oxygen tanks run out—one hour to defeat his demons and escape the belly of a whale.
Karen’s Thoughts: I am a huge fan of Daniel Kraus’ YA books, so I was eager to read this. I listened to the audio, for the record. It’s interesting to me that this book is being marketed as ADULT as the main character is 17-years-old, the same age as the characters in most YA books. And by all accounts, this is actually far tamer than, say, Rotters (a great book), so the age category designation fascinates me.
Outside of the age, I just want to say that this is such a great book. Jay is a 17-year-old who left home about 2 years ago because of a bad relationship with his father. Said father is a diver who taught Jay to dive and his dead body ends up at sea. Jay goes on a solo dive to retrieve said dead body and ends up accidentally swallowed by a whale. The bulk of the book are alternating scenes flashing back to his life and explaining the relationship and Jay trying to find a way out of the whale alive.
One of the reasons I am sad that this isn’t being marketed as YA is because Jay is a great male main character in an exciting and emotional journey and we definitely need more of that in YA. The emotional tapestry of this book is chef’s kiss; moving, thoughtful, nuanced, and a full arc of human emotional. This book is just as much about exploring family and human connections as it is about one man’s survival in the belly of a beast.
This is a profoundly moving, entertaining, and majestic story. I highly recommend it. And even though it is being marketed as adult, it’s a great read for high school students.
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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