Soul Surfer

Book review by
Karen Wirsing, Common Sense Media
Soul Surfer Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Inspirational story of life after a shark attack.

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 13 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Families can use this book to delve into a series of issues, from discussing the book's message to comparing and contrasting it with the movie of the same name. Families may also want to talk about the popularity of the story: Did you know it's a bestseller? Why do so many readers buy this book?

Positive Messages

Readers get the message that adversity can be overcome with optimism, and having faith will lead to success.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Bethany is wise beyond her years. She is strong-willed, confident, and optimistic. Her faith is unyielding and inspirational. Rather than focusing on her loss, she is grateful for what she does have: her life. 


The shark attack is described in great detail. Although it is a short paragraph, Bethany recalls the blue water changing to red with her blood.


Lots of surf logos are mentioned, especially Bethany's sponsor, Rip Curl. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book tells the true story of a girl who was attacked by a shark and loses her arm. In the book, Bethany remembers seeing a shadow of gray and then feeling a sharp pull on her arm. She then witnesses the water around her transform to red with her blood. There are lots of references to the Christian faith and Bethany quotes scriptures from the Bible. The message of Bethany's story is adversity can be overcome with optimism, and having faith will lead to success.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10-year-old Written bythemoxleys April 29, 2012

awsome girl

well i think it was pretty good well i think but not for kids under age 6 and im 11 so awsome
Teen, 13 years old Written byLainie.R November 1, 2019

Really good book

I personally am pretty disturbed by blood usually, but this book wasn't gross or gory at all. Would reccomend this book
Teen, 13 years old Written byAmyGreen June 19, 2018

Book talks a lot about religion

The book is pretty good. It talks a lot about catholicism and how thats related to her accident. Its a good book for people that are interested or believe in c... Continue reading

What's the story?

This is the true story of Bethany Hamilton, a 13-year old girl who lost her arm to a shark. She describes the frightening attack, but also talks about how she persevered after her injury. Only a month later she learned to surf again -- and then returned to pro surfing. Her story also inspired the movie of the same name.

Is it any good?

This is an inspirational story that may have special appeal to Christian tweens and teens. But even kids from different faiths will admire Bethany's strength and appreciate her message: adversity can be overcome with optimism, and having faith will lead to success. Bethany proves that a can-do attitude often leads to success -- and her true life story will give readers plenty to think and talk about.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the book's message about facing life’s challenges. Do you think you'd be able to respond to a life-changing tragedy the way Bethany does? How do you think she manages it?

  • This book inspired the movie of the same name. Families may want to compare and contrast the two. Which made a stronger impression on you?

Book details

  • Author: Bethany Hamilton
  • Genre: Biography
  • Book type: Non-Fiction
  • Publisher: MTV
  • Publication date: March 1, 2011
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 9 - 12
  • Number of pages: 304
  • Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Kindle
  • Last updated: June 19, 2019

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