Wednesday, 9 March 2016

'The Island', by Olivia Levez

Title: The Island
Author(s): Olivia Levez
Release Date: 3rd March 2016
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Genre: YA
Source: Publisher (ARC)

Synopsis:
Frances is alone on a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. She has to find water and food. She has to survive. And when she is there she also thinks about the past. The things that she did before. The things that made her a monster. Nothing is easy. Survival is hard and so is being honest about the past. Frances is a survivor however, and with the help of the only other crash survivor, she sees that the future is worth fighting for.

The Island is a gripping and thoughtful story about a girl who didn’t ask to be the person she is but is also determined to make herself the person she wants to be.

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I don't believe I have ever read a 'Survivor' type of book within the YA genre, and that's what initially guided my attention towards this story. In the end, while it does have that element, it's very much a coming of age story, regardless of where it is set!

The format of this book is very unusual. The chapters average about a page each: they can be as short as a couple of paragraphs but almost never exceeding two pages. This makes for a very quick read, especially considering the main story is sprinkled with flashbacks of Fran's life.

This method will usually end up going one of two ways. Either the flashbacks are used as nothing but filler, or it is the perfect way to tell the story. I am glad to say that with 'The Island' it is definitely the latter!

For most of the book, we do not know what Frances has done to land herself in a rehabilitation program. There are clues here and there, but the full picture is not put together until about the last third of the story. This is only a problem in the aspect that until you are able to understand where Frances is coming from, she is not a very likable character. She comes across as a brat in most of her interactions with other people and her attitudes regarding pretty much everything, and for some people that might tempt them to not continue reading the book.

I pushed through, however, because while she does have that worst side, she is also very relatable at times. Once she finds herself stranded in a lifeboat, she completely freaks out. She wastes most of her resources and I cringed through all of it, chanting in my head 'you are soooo going to regret that'. But wouldn't most of us just lose it if all of a sudden we were the sole survivors of a plane crash? I certainly would, and it was so very refreshing reading about a character in that situation that is not immediately in control and completely the survivalist type.

Frances gets it together, though, and manages to scrape by with the little knowledge that she has. Her development once she gets to the island and finally starts giving herself the time to think about what she's done and what she left behind was a treat to read. I would definitely tell people picking up this book to give Frances some time to fully come around: she gets so much better, I promise!

I raised my hands to the sky in prayer and thanks to the closest divinities when I saw a mention to menstruation in this book. It's been a hot topic lately in the book community how much talking about periods seems to be taboo in YA literature, and seeing this slow shift towards the normalization of it brings me immense joy. Especially considering the environment that Frances is in, that is something that she definitely had to deal with and even if it is only mentioned once (when she spends months in the island) it is such a large step in the right direction! Also, body hair. I could mention off the top of my head countless times that characters are described in books as having baby smooth skin in post-apocalyptic/equivalent contexts, and it paints such an unrealistic picture of the human body. Frances is absolutely having none of that, and I would have 'high-fived' her if I physically could.

The moment the plot brings the other survivor around (I thought it would happen a lot sooner in the book, but the background into France's life was a good way to get there), I started bracing for a very stereotypical ending. Every single time I have read stories like these, the ending will always, ALWAYS be the same, and I have gotten used to expect it off the bat. But joy of joys, I was so immensely surprised by 'The Island'! All the praise to Olivia Levez, I was not expecting that 'plot twist' at all and it made for the rest of the read to be so much more enjoyable.

France's story is one that everyone will be able to relate to. A tough nut to crack at first (no pun intended), once you learn what has made her the way she is you will want to immediately yank her off the book and protect her for any more harm coming her way. Give her a chance to grow on you, and you will definitely find this a beautiful, if not heartbreaking story of a girl that didn't ask for the life that she's had, but finds the strength to deal with its answers.

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1 comment:

  1. Awww, thanks for this review - only just seen it!

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