The Boat Runner by Devin Murphy

Can you tell it’s back-to-school season in this book blogger’s world?! It hit me like a brick, but I’m hoping to get back on track soon! I’ve still been reading like crazy, but not all reviews have made it from Goodreads to the blog, so connect with me there to make sure to stay current on ALL of my reviews! KidLitExchange has been keeping me busy too!

The Boat Runner
by Devin Murphy
(Harper Perennial – September 5, 2017)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Description (from Goodreads)


In the tradition of All The Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale, comes an incandescent debut novel about a young Dutch man who comes of age during the perilousness of World War II.

Beginning in the summer of 1939, fourteen-year-old Jacob Koopman and his older brother, Edwin, enjoy lives of prosperity and quiet contentment. Many of the residents in their small Dutch town have some connection to the Koopman lightbulb factory, and the locals hold the family in high esteem. 

On days when they aren’t playing with friends, Jacob and Edwin help their Uncle Martin on his fishing boat in the North Sea, where German ships have become a common sight. But conflict still seems unthinkable, even as the boys’ father naively sends his sons to a Hitler Youth Camp in an effort to secure German business for the factory.

When war breaks out, Jacob’s world is thrown into chaos. The Boat Runner follows Jacob over the course of four years, through the forests of France, the stormy beaches of England, and deep within the secret missions of the German Navy, where he is confronted with the moral dilemma that will change his life—and his life’s mission—forever. 

Epic in scope and featuring a thrilling narrative with precise, elegant language, The Boat Runner tells the little-known story of the young Dutch boys who were thrown into the Nazi campaign, as well as the brave boatmen who risked everything to give Jewish refugees safe passage to land abroad. Through one boy’s harrowing tale of personal redemption, here is a novel about the power of people’s stories and voices to shine light through our darkest days, until only love prevails.


A stunning debut with a completely original and riveting take on the European WWII genre.

Thanks to Edelweiss, the publisher and the author for allowing me to read this digital ARC.

A month ago, I declared that I would be DONE with European WWII novels given that they were all seeming the same and I was completely burned out on them. Enter Elise Hooper, the author of THE OTHER ALCOTT, urging me to try this one, as she had been on an author panel with Devin Murphy at ALA and that I’d love it. I contacted Murphy and he had his publisher provide me with a digital ARC. And OH MY GOODNESS I am so glad I found this book! I will be shouting it from the rooftops as the newest must-read WWII novel for the following reasons that make it fresh, original, and necessary:

1) Set in Holland, NOT France, Germany or Poland
2) Male narrator
3) Maritime premise
4) NO ROMANCE – I’m sick of romance sweetening up the horrors of death and war
5) An eerie look into Nazi mentality and the ease at which they indoctrinated youth
6) Hope within the devastation
7) A very relevant message about refugees

I have already put this on hold at my public library for my husband, since I told him he MUST read it. He’s excited about it, and I can’t wait to hear what he thinks of it.

The only thing I wish for is an author’s note describing how much of the story is based on fact, since I rely heavily on these pieces to help me in further reading on the topics. I am hoping there is one in the finished edition, otherwise I will be searching it out piece by piece! EDITED TO ADD THIS NOTE DIRECTLY FROM THE AUTHOR: There is an authors note essay in the back of the final version all about how and why I wrote the book.

Required reading for lovers of historical fiction and WWII narratives.
View all of my Goodreads reviews

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