Author: Lynne Matson
Publisher: Henry Holt
Publication Date: 3/4/2104
Length: 384 pages hours
Genre: YA Survival
Source: ARC from publisher/purchased online
The premise is simple: one island, 365 days. A mysterious force drops kids on an island, and they have 365 days to figure out how to escape or they die. One minute, seventeen-year-old Charley is standing in the Target parking lot, and the next she’s standing naked on a rocky cliff with no clue where she is. She eventually meets a group of kids on the island who explain where she is (an unknown island dubbed “Nil”) and the logistics of escape. Chapters alternate point of view between Charley and the leader of the island group, Thad, as they navigate both the island and their growing feelings for each other. But Thad’s been on the island for 266 days, and time is running out. Can they both escape?
You guys. YOU GUYS. This is a standalone adventure/survival story. I was totally expecting this to have a cliffhanger and set up a trilogy, but no! You can read it and feel the satisfaction of finishing the story. Complete satisfaction. Such a breath of fresh air for a book in this genre.
I was expecting this story to be a Lord of the Flies-type dystopia, but I was pleased that it was not. For the most part, the kids on the island cooperated and genuinely worked as a tribe to get each other through the mysterious floating “gates” and off the island. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to see teamwork in the face of adversity! Of course, a few of the kids did serve as antagonists, but the real antagonist here was the island, not human nature. So thank you, Lynne Matson, for providing some fresh drama in an island story.
My big worry with this novel would be that the world would not be logical, or that the loose ends would not be tied up. Well, when all was said and done I can say that you do have to go into the story ready to suspend belief just a little bit. Matson does give a very interesting explanation for what’s really going on here, but reflecting upon her world, I still found a few holes. I hope it’s not too spoilertastic to complain that we are never given any real answer as to why (or how) the kids die after 365 days. Once we learn what is going on, a few of the basic premises don’t make any sense at all (why teenagers? why mammals? why does “purpose” matter?). Oh, and I did kind of want to punch Thad at the end for being a STUPID IDIOT, but I guess no one ever said the kid was smart or logical.
Overall, though, this was a fun and surprising novel. I read it all in one sitting and was genuinely surprised by how it all played out. I didn’t mind the romance, since a key element of the plot (gates only appear at noon) means there is a lot of sitting around waiting — and what else are bored kids going to do but make out? I found Charley’s dilemma over sex to be interesting, too, and I was glad to see the topic brought up in this context. Matson’s treatment of gender in the novel as a whole was pretty good, especially in the character of Charley (I felt Charley was realistic and reasonable).
This was a fun ride. Yes, it has some (huge) logical flaws, but I was not in the mood to nitpick those upon finishing the book. I just liked it. I liked the adventure, the romance, the explanation, the premise, the ending, the mystery, the survival, and the setting. Think of it as Survivor meets Lost meets The Maze Runner, with the combination of the mysterious island and the time limit for escaping it. Oh, and the bandana bandeaus. So reach for this one if you enjoy trying to figure out puzzles, kissing boys on the beach, survival stories, volleyball, standalone novels, and teamwork. I’d rate the book at 12+, with content warnings for sexual situations and a few bloody deaths.
What is your favorite island survival story?