After his father died, Chris felt adrift. Not that he had been terribly close with his father. It always seemed complicated with his dad. Like maybe he was letting him down, but maybe not. Hard to tell. But now it was too late, after all, because his father was dead.
His Uncle Jack thinks that Chris should come with him and take his boat and sail it down from Alaska to Washington. At first Chris’ mom doesn’t like the idea, but then Uncle Jack wins out. Soon Chris finds himself aboard the Puff. However, it isn’t just Chris and his Uncle Jack. There is someone else on board, and his name is Frank. Frank is a boy about three years older than Chris, and Frank has nothing pleasant to say to well, anyone. Chris has no idea who Frank is or why he’s on the boat with them.
Before Chris can find out, he becomes seriously seasick, and the pills his uncle give him send him into the twilight zone. However, at some point he comes to, and realizes that the boat is sinking. Chris barely makes it up to the little life boat where Frank is already sitting before his Uncle Jack races back down for the radio, but the boat is sinking too fast for him to get out. He makes a last frantic effort to save the boys by tossing the radio to Chris, who drops it.
Chris does make it into the life raft with Frank, who seems to not be able to process what is happening to them. After some really scary moments, they make it to a deserted shoreline. However that is just the beginning of their troubles.
Fairly quickly they discover an abandoned shack, however, there is a radio with a dead battery and no way to call for help. Where are they, and just how long can they survive on their own? Frank continues to be incredibly hostile toward Chris, who struggles to understand why. After befriending a raven, who Chris names Thursday, Frank alternates between seeming to be nice and wanting to kill Chris and the raven. Winter is coming and the boys have to decide what their course of action should be.
The Skeleton Tree by Iain Lawrence is one of the best survival books that I’ve read in a long time, and one of the best books I’ve read this summer. It kept me interested from the beginning to the end, and I appreciate that in a book. The dynamics between the boys and the wildlife around them will keep you on the edge of your seat. If you like adventure and survival stories, don’t miss this one!
Recommended for 6th grade and up.