Jess' grandfather is acting very strangely. He has always been grumpy and irritable--that's no different from usual. He has always been a painter, too, obsessed with finishing a painting he's started and especially nasty to those around him until he does manage to find the inspiration to finish it. But the painting he's working on now is not in his usual style, and this one has a name: "River Boy." He's never named one of his paintings before. To make matters even stranger, he has insisted his son and daughter-in-law and granddaughter Jess go on a vacation to the place he lived growing up. The family drives for hours and moves into a small cottage by a river that starts up beyond them and eventually flows down into the ocean. Jess, an excellent swimmer who craves time in the water, loves the location and the river.
Jess' parents are worried, though. Before they left, Jess' grandfather had a heart attack. He insisted on being let out of the hospital in order to go on vacation, but their vacaton spot is so secluded, they worry he will have another heart attack and won't be able to get to a hospital again in time. Her grandfather is fixated on one thing--finishing the painting he's started. It seems to be the only goal he has left in life, but it becomes more and more difficult as he gets weaker and weaker. Jess is torn. She doesn't know how to help him or what he needs. Furthermore, there seems to be a mystery surrounding this place. She keeps seeing a boy out in the river at the strangest hours, a boy she suspects is watching her. Who is he? Is he really as mysterious as Jess thinks, or is her imagination simply running away with her?
I really liked the relationship between Jess and her grandfather. They were very close despite his crabbiness. It was nice that Jess was able to look beyond that. I thought the ending of this book was really good. Things really came together and made sense. However, I didn't like the way Jess' grandfather treated her father; that made me dislike the character of the grandfather a little bit.