The Whisper: The Riverman Trilogy, Book 2

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Whisper: The Riverman Trilogy, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Deep-thinking fantasy lovers will dive into this sequel.

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

Educational Value

Most of the story in the sequel takes place in various fantasy worlds created by kids from different countries and time periods with differing abilities, interests, and backgrounds. Readers may enjoy imagining what from each creator's real life they brought with them and altered. One example is a space station with miniature typewriters as forward-thinking technology.

Positive Messages

There's an overarching cautionary tale here about escape to fantasy worlds. Real life is a mix of joys and challenges; trying to create a world with no challenges (or people who challenge us in ways good and bad) keeps us from growing up. Can only good exist without something to counter it? These topics give readers plenty to philosophize about.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Alistair gets frustrated with himself for trusting so easily and being a follower instead of a leader. He learns his lessons and starts following his own instincts. Instead of becoming distrustful of everyone, he learns that truth has power and searches for it. He's driven by wanting to help his friends.


Not much of the violence feels very real since it happens in fantasy worlds or in flashbacks. The real people who create the fantasy worlds, however, can get their souls sucked out through their ears with a straw. It's not known whether they're gone forever or not. Monsters populate the fantasy worlds and attack, killing one real boy with an animal horn to his chest. Figment people are killed with blood everywhere. Stories of a boy hitting his head on a rock and dying, animals killed in a hunt, wasps stinging, tentacles suffocating figment people who are pierced with a quill, a wolf eating a baby, a bear eating an old lady, a girl who died of infection, and a kid getting beat up in a bathroom. Repeated talk of something that happened in Book 1: Alastair shot a gun and hit another boy in the stomach.


Mentions of a couple of kisses.


Rare strong language: mostly "hell" and "damn" with a couple "ass," a "b.s.," and one "brother-trucking."


Some talk of Nintendo games and a mention of Swedish Fish.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mentions of figments drinking beer or having too much to drink and figment high schoolers smoking cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Whisper is the second book in a thought-provoking coming-of-age/fantasy trilogy and a great choice for reading along with kids. There's a discussion to have with kids about what went wrong in the fantasy worlds kids created in this book. Can they live in a world with all good things they create? Why do we need challenges in life? Great coming-of-age lessons for sure! This sequel stays mostly in the fantasy realms, so expect violence to feel less real, though there's a possibility that the real kids who create the worlds are dying in a sinister way: Their souls are sucked out of their ears with a straw. Monsters attack mostly figments, but one boy is killed. The main character keeps remembering his grave mistake from the first book: shooting someone in the stomach. Language stays pretty mild (mostly "hell" and "damn"), and only figments drink and smoke.

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What's the story?

Alistair enters the fantasy realm of Aquavania through the boiler in his friend Fiona's basement with one goal: He has to find and save Fiona from the Riverman, who's out to steal her soul. He's worried the Riverman may already have her, but if so, he'll figure out a way to get her back. The fact that Alistair knows the Riverman, even grew up with him, gives him a little advantage, or so he thinks. The Riverman, who also goes by the name the Whisper, is always one step ahead, pushing him from one world to the next, each filled with dangerous ciphers (monsters) the Whisper created. Alastair makes his way to a space station and meets two scientists bent on destroying the ciphers and figuring out how to defeat the Whisper. One scientist hands him an incomplete atlas of Aquavania's many worlds and urges him to follow his instincts and save all the kids the Whisper has claimed. Suddenly his quest for Fiona has gotten a whole lot bigger.

Is it any good?

This doesn't follow the standard "book 2 of a trilogy" formula of stringing readers along with an intriguing side plot and some character development, saving all the meaty stuff for the last book. We're barely even in Alistair's real New York town in THE WHISPER, where most of The Riverman took place, except in flashback. Instead, we're thrust into the fantasy worlds of Aquavania, puzzling out along with Alistair how they're connected, what happened to all the creators of the worlds, why monsters run rampant, and whom to trust. It's a confusing web with loads of questions stuck to it.

Sometimes the web is too confusing, especially at the finale, when more clarity is always welcome. It's hard to trust the author to make everything clear by Book 3, but the satisfaction in this series may not be about clarity. For all the young philosophers out there who are bound to enjoy the Riverman trilogy most, it's about the profound questions posed, coming-of-age and otherwise. And there are many.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about fantasy, reality, and growing up. What's the problem with the world Fiona creates? What's wrong with the fantasy version of Alistair? Why do you think the world creators never age?

  • Why is fantasy such a popular genre of literature? Which other fantasy series have you read?

  • What do you think Alistair will do in Book 3? Has Charlie influenced him as much as he thinks he has?

Book details

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For kids who love fantasy

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