ARC Reviews, Book Reviews, Mystery, Other, Young Adult

Book Review: Gone to Drift by Diana McCaulay


I requested Gone to Drift because the cover gave me Island of the Blue Dolphins vibes.  While this was nothing like Island of the Blue Dolphins, this was a very interesting YA novel about a boy’s quest to find out what happened to his beloved Grandfather who never returns from a fishing trip.  It sounds simple, but this book was much more than I was anticipating…


GoneToDriftAuthor: Diana McCaulay

Genre: Mystery • Young Adult

Version: eBook

Publisher: Impress Books

Source: NetGalley


Book Description

Life gets even tougher for Lloyd, a boy from a Jamaican fishing village, when his grandfather goes missing at sea – ‘gone to drift’ as the local fishers say. Lloyd sets out to find him but no one will help except for an uptown girl who studies dolphins, his best friend Dwight and – just perhaps – a mad man called Slowly on a sun-baked beach.
Truth? Respect? Survival? Gone to Drift is a powerful adventure story in which Lloyd discovers that the enemies of his grandfather – and of the Caribbean Sea that he loves – are closer to home than he could ever imagine.
The author, Diana McCaulay, is an award-winning Jamaican writer. This is her first Young Adult novel.



In Gone to Drift we are getting two stories: the present day story of Llyod searching for answers in his grandfather’s disappearance, and the life story of Lloyd’s Grandfather, Maas Conrad.  The format of this book was very interesting.  Normally, I don’t really like when an author switches narratives within a book, but it worked well here.  Gone to Drift is told in 3rd person for Lloyd’s perspective, and 1st person for Conrad’s perspective.  Furthermore, Conrad’s perspective jumps back and forth from past to present.  I know it sounds like a lot going on, but somehow McCaulay pulls it off.

One of my favorite aspects about this book is the setting.  I really enjoyed that this book was set in a fishing village in Jamaica, where fishing is the backbone of the town.  Growing up in Southwest Ohio, I do not know much about the fishing industry, nor what it is like to live in a place that relies so heavily on the fishing trade.  I love getting glimpses into communities & cultures that differ so much from my own.  For this reason, I especially enjoyed Conrad’s perspective because we got a glimpse at how fishing in Jamaica has drastically changed over the course of his life.  I also was pleasantly surprised at some of the environmental themes Gone to Drift goes into.  We really get to see the moral dilemmas that these fisherman go through: Do we fish close to harbor where we know the fish are exposed to pollution?  or do we risk our lives going to dangerous locations where we know the fishing is better?  Do we use questionable methods that may do harm to other marine life and the ocean itself if this means our family will have food to eat?  I know a normal person would think these answers would be cut & dry, but McCaulay really shows us both sides of the story here.  This book also goes into dolphin trade/black market, where locals will capture & sell dolphins to be used in the tourist industry (i.e. swimming with the dolphins).  This book really gave me a lot to think about on issues I’d never given much thought to

Based off the cover, I was anticipating a middle grade read, but it is definitely NOT a middle grade novel and is actually classified as YA.  Actually, I almost think this book would appeal more to adult readers vs. YA readers based on some of the content & themes.  This isn’t to say a YA reader would not enjoy this book, just that it might do better in the adult genre.  I am actually wondering if this is one of the reasons why this book has ZERO hype, that it was marketed as YA.  I am just not sure this one will appeal to the majority of YA readers, which is unfortunate.

My only criticism of Gone to Drift would be that I wish the author wouldn’t have left a few things unresolved at the end.  A simple epilogue at the end that jumped ahead a few years would have helped me feel a little more closure.

If you are looking for a “different” type of YA book, I would recommend this one to you.  I’d also recommend for those who enjoy learning about different countries & lifestyles, books exploring moral dilemmas, mystery, and adventure.  I think this book has a lot of good things going for it.  Everything feels very authentic in this novel, which is no surprise since the author is an environmental activist and lifelong resident of Jamaica.  



5-Star Rating System

*Big thanks to Impress Books  for providing me with a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


About the Author

DianaMcCaulayDiana McCaulay is an award winning Jamaican writer and a lifelong resident of its capital city Kingston. She has written four novels, Dog-Heart (March 2010), Huracan (July 2012), both published by Peepal Tree Press in the United Kingdom, Gone to Drift (February 2016), published by Papillote Press from Dominica and the UK and the self-published, White Liver Gal (May 2017).
Diana founded the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) in 1991 and still serves as its CEO and guiding force. In that position, she has interacted with all levels of Jamaican society from the Prime Minister and cabinet officials to rural Jamaicans displaced by development and fishers denied access to beaches. Diana’s writing contains an authenticity and vibrancy derived from her active participation at so many levels of Jamaican society. She was a popular newspaper columnist for The Gleaner (1994-2001) and her short fiction has been published by Granta Online, Eleven Eleven, The Caribbean Writer, Afro-Beat, Lifestyle Magazine and the Jamaica Observer’s literary supplement, Bookends. She won the regional Commonwealth Writers Prize in 2012, for her short story, The Dolphin Catchers.
Diana was born into the Jamaican upper-middle class and has spent a lifetime pondering questions of race, class, colour, and privilege in Jamaican society. The honest and penetrating insights in her novels and stories come from sharp observation and profound self-reflection, and arise out of experiences similar to the ones she has written about. Hers is a uniquely authentic voice from a background which usually turns away from all that she unflinchingly faces.

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: Gone to Drift by Diana McCaulay”

  1. This review reminded me that Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond novels, lives in Jamaica. In the CNN show Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain, he goes to Jamaica and talks to Fleming. Locals claim Fleming and his ilk are buying up waterfront properties in Jamaica, which leaves Jamaicans almost no where to swim. If I remember correctly, there is only one public beach left.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds like a really cool novel. I love exploring other cultures and experiences– but I always struggle with identifying if they are authentic. The world has been so focused on whether content is accurately represented or if there is problematic content, I question everything. Which, honestly, is frustrating. It sounds like there is solid representation in this book– or, at least, many sides of the same coin. I’m glad this was a hit for you!


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