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3.7 / 5

"Adrift" Characters Analysis

By Paul Griffin

young adult | 240 pages | Published in 2015

Five teenagers. One boat. Who will come back alive?Matt and his best friend, John, only came out to Montauk for the summer to make a little extra cash and then head back home. A seemingly basic plan for two guys from Queens.And then Matt meets Driana.Because it’s always about a girl, right?The girl leads to a party, the party leads to a boat, which leads to being adrift at sea with three rich kids who have no clue about how to navigate a boat, let alone actually survive.Matt and John are used to creating stability in unstable situations, but Matt’s busy falling in love at the worst possible time, and John can rub people the wrong way when he’s focused on survival. Driana is trying to keep the peace, but her friends JoJo and Stef aren’t making it easy. The longer they are out there, the lower everyone’s reserves of mental and emotional strength, which is a problem since the biggest mistakes can happen when people are tired and hungry and have no hope.How far will each of them go to survive?And what happens when old tensions and past ghosts rise to the surface?


Estimated read time: 7 min read

List of Characters

KarenLove Interest
Captain JonesSupporting Character
Mr. DavisSupporting Character

Role Identification

In the book "Adrift" by Paul Griffin, the characters play various roles that contribute to the overall plot and themes of the story. The main protagonist, Matt, goes on a journey of survival and self-discovery after a tragic accident leaves him stranded at sea. John, the antagonist, adds tension and conflict to the story, while Karen serves as a love interest for Matt. Captain Jones and Mr. Davis are supporting characters who aid in the character development and progression of the plot.

Character Descriptions

  1. Matt: Matt is a sixteen-year-old boy who loves to surf. He is described as athletic, adventurous, and resourceful. Matt's physical appearance is characterized by his wiry frame and sun-bleached hair. He is determined and resilient, facing the challenges of being adrift at sea with courage and ingenuity.
  2. John: John is a fellow surfer and acquaintance of Matt's. He is portrayed as a troublemaker and a bully. John has a muscular build and exudes an air of arrogance. He frequently clashes with Matt and becomes a source of conflict throughout the story.
  3. Karen: Karen is a kind-hearted girl who attends the same school as Matt. She is depicted as compassionate and caring. Karen has long, flowing hair and a warm smile. She becomes a source of comfort and support for Matt during his ordeal at sea.
  4. Captain Jones: Captain Jones is an experienced sailor who rescues Matt and the other characters. He is described as weathered and wise, with a grizzled appearance. Captain Jones provides guidance and mentorship to Matt, helping him navigate the challenges of survival.
  5. Mr. Davis: Mr. Davis is Matt's teacher and mentor. He is portrayed as intelligent and insightful. Mr. Davis has a calm and composed demeanor, offering guidance and encouragement to Matt during his difficult journey.

Character Traits

  1. Matt: Matt is determined, resilient, and resourceful. He demonstrates bravery and adaptability in the face of adversity. He is also compassionate and caring, as shown through his interactions with Karen and his concern for the well-being of others.
  2. John: John is confrontational, aggressive, and manipulative. He enjoys asserting his dominance over others and takes pleasure in causing trouble. His actions are fueled by jealousy and a desire for control.
  3. Karen: Karen is empathetic, supportive, and nurturing. She provides emotional comfort and encouragement to Matt, offering him a sense of stability and hope during their time at sea.
  4. Captain Jones: Captain Jones is experienced, knowledgeable, and pragmatic. He possesses a wealth of nautical expertise and imparts valuable wisdom to Matt. He is patient and understanding, guiding Matt through the challenges of survival.
  5. Mr. Davis: Mr. Davis is wise, patient, and perceptive. He serves as a mentor figure for Matt, offering guidance and encouragement. He sees the potential in Matt and helps him cultivate his strengths.

Character Background

  1. Matt: Matt comes from a modest background and has a love for surfing. He has a close-knit group of friends and a supportive family. However, the accident at sea disrupts his normal life and forces him to confront his inner fears and strengths.
  2. John: John comes from a troubled background and has a reputation for causing trouble. His behavior is often fueled by a desire for power and control. The reasons behind his antagonistic nature are not explored in depth in the story.
  3. Karen: Karen is a compassionate and caring individual. Her background is not extensively explored in the book, but her kindness and empathy shine through her actions and interactions with others.
  4. Captain Jones: Captain Jones has spent his life at sea, gaining extensive knowledge and experience. His background as a sailor and his encounters with various challenges have shaped him into a resilient and wise individual.
  5. Mr. Davis: Mr. Davis is a dedicated teacher who genuinely cares about his students. His background is not explored in detail, but his passion for teaching and his ability to connect with Matt suggest a wealth of life experiences and wisdom.

Character Arcs

  1. Matt: Matt undergoes a significant character arc throughout the story. Initially, he is portrayed as a carefree teenager who loves surfing. However, the accident at sea pushes him to his limits, forcing him to confront his fears and discover his inner strength. Matt grows emotionally and mentally, becoming more resilient and self-reliant.
  2. John: Although John is primarily portrayed as an antagonist, his character arc is limited. He remains confrontational and aggressive throughout the story, providing a consistent source of conflict for Matt and the other characters.
  3. Karen: Karen's character arc revolves around her role as a source of support for Matt. She remains kind and caring, providing emotional stability for him during their time at sea. Her presence allows Matt to develop a deeper connection with her and find solace in their budding relationship.
  4. Captain Jones: Captain Jones serves as a mentor figure for Matt, guiding him through the challenges of survival. His character arc is primarily focused on imparting wisdom and expertise to Matt, helping him develop his skills and resilience.
  5. Mr. Davis: Mr. Davis plays a minor role in the story but serves as a source of inspiration for Matt. His character arc is limited, but his guidance and encouragement contribute to Matt's growth and development.


  1. Matt and John: Matt and John have a strained relationship characterized by conflict and antagonism. John's aggressive behavior creates tension and poses challenges for Matt throughout the story.
  2. Matt and Karen: Matt and Karen develop a close bond during their time at sea. Their relationship evolves from friendship to a romantic connection, providing support and comfort to each other during their struggle for survival.
  3. Matt and Captain Jones: Captain Jones becomes a mentor figure for Matt, providing guidance and support during their time at sea. Their relationship is based on mutual respect and a shared goal of survival.
  4. Matt and Mr. Davis: Mr. Davis serves as a mentor figure for Matt, offering guidance and encouragement. Their relationship is characterized by trust and the belief in Matt's potential.

In conclusion, "Adrift" by Paul Griffin features a diverse cast of characters who contribute to the story's themes of survival, resilience, and self-discovery. Matt's journey of growth and transformation is influenced by his relationships with John, Karen, Captain Jones, and Mr. Davis. The character traits, backgrounds, and arcs of these characters add depth and complexity to the narrative, making "Adrift" a compelling and engaging read.