Benice: An Adventure of Love and Friendship by Metin Karayaka

I’m trying to make sense of my reaction to Benice: An Adventure of Love and Friendship by Metin Karayaka. This is normally something I would love: middle grade adventure story with classic fairy tale style and illustrations; and a positive message as a bonus. Which is why I grabbed it from NetGalley.

But while I enjoyed it (3 stars), I wasn’t wowed like so many NetGalley and Goodreads reviewers. But first, plot teaser:

Levend is just twelve when he meets Mr. Ben Ice, a gruff fisherman whose peg leg, eyepatch and hook hand all but prove a lifetime of piracy. But life in Yalova is hard, and if this intimidating figure can help Levend support his family, then he’ll gladly accompany him on the fishing trip of a lifetime – even if it’s packed with more danger, adventure and friendship than either of them could ever have expected.

As Levend discovers more and more about his would-be captain, he becomes embroiled in a dangerous pirate feud, a hunt for sunken treasure, and the chance to forge friendships that will last a lifetime – even if that only means the next few minutes. Confronted by timeless love and shocking betrayal, Levend must decide who he can trust and who’ll make him walk the plank.

The first caveat I should make is that it is middle grade fiction and it might be the case that I am not that good a judge of books in this genre. I really should read it to my kids or have them read it and give me feedback …

But there was something about it that just didn’t connect with me. I found the flashback storytelling and the multiple perspectives confusing at times and many of the characters were thin and undeveloped. I didn’t feel like everything fit together and the world made sense. It was like you were dropped into this world from another culture and the backstory and history was left out. Again, this could be part of the middle grade audience.

I think the key to enjoying a book like this is to suspend disbelief and dive in, reading it in large chunks. I read it at night before falling asleep and it could be that this made it more disjointed. Who knows? Kirkus called it a “A Treasure Island for the modern era, recommended for middle-grade readers and fans of pirate-adventure tales.” But then again, my daughter did not care for Treasure Island …

I will leave it to you dear readers to decide if this is the type of book for you and your family:

A middle-grade bedtime storybook written and illustrated in the tradition of classics. While adventures teach boys and girls importance of family and friendship in their lives, adults will love the good lessons about not making the wrong decisions when life offers challenges.

If you are a Kindle user, it is currently $2.99 so low risk …

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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