Thursday, 18 July 2013

Book: The Island by Jen Minkman

On the Island, children leave home at age 10, and enter the Manor House until they marry. The story starts with twins, Leia and Colin, leaving their parents and moving. It then picks up 6 years later when Leia is feeling disenchanted with the self-appointed leader of the Manor. She steals the Book (a Star Wars notebook that is believed to be the holy book of the people of Newexter) and her whole world starts to unravel. She meets a boy from the other side of the wall, called Walt, and is captivated by him, eventually running to him for help.

Link to Goodreads
Link to amazon

First off, I have seen quite a few negative reviews for The Island, a lot of them likening it to fan fiction. I have to say that I disagree, this certainly isn't fan fiction, however if you're not a fan of Star Wars then I suggest that you don't read The Island as it has a lot of references. I'm not a big Star Wars fan myself, but I still really enjoyed this book!

For the inhabitants of Leia's side of the Island, Star Wars is the religion, and Leia and Luke were the people's ancestors. This explains the reasoning that children shouldn't trust their parents, or be dependent on them, as the history with Darth Vadar remains true to the original story. I thought that it was interesting in the way that something from pop culture made its way to becoming a religion, though when the big reveal of how the world ended comes about it makes sense. Honestly, I can see how in a post apocalyptic world this could happen, something that we take for granted as fiction could be taken as fact. At first I was like most people seem to be and was shocked and disbelieving about the way Star Wars was incorporated into the story, but I actually came to like the way it was used in the end.

I seem to be sticking with the comparisons to classic novels with The Island. In this case it is a comparison to William Golding's The Lord of the Flies (which I studied for GCSE English Literature, as I say a lot, it takes an awful lot for me to dislike a book, and this book is probably my bench mark, I really didn't like the Lord of the Flies, though as you'll be able to see - hopefully! - in this paragraph, I do understand the messages and themes in it). I thought that the structure and the concepts of The Island, much echoed those of Golding's book, there is a group of children without adult supervision and they degenerate into violence, chaos and a love of power. The interesting thing about The Island, and a clear indication of the publication dates, is that girls are included, so there is the added threat of rape, which was certainly hinted at when Mara punched Ben. Similarly the ending echoed that of The Lord of the Flies, *spoilers* in the fact that there was an escape off the island and the children suddenly calmed down and started to realise what was wrong *end spoilers*. I think that it is interesting seeing how more 'classic' novels have influenced modern authors and how those authors have adapted their ideas to make them their own.

The characters in The Island did seem to fall a bit flat, probably suffering due to it being a novella rather than a full length novel, but saying that Minkman did succeed in creating enough suspense to keep the story going (something I thought that the aforementioned, The Lord of the Flies, lacks in my opinion) and there is a chance that if the book had been longer this would have suffered. Similarly to this point, it seemed to me that Leia was very quick to accept the faults in her world and society and to believe what the others were saying, though again I suspect this was done in the interest of saving time to build up the suspense.

Overall I felt that this book made interesting uses of popular culture, and told a suspenseful story. It is good as a quick read, though there are more developed storylines out there.