Thursday, October 31, 2013

Random Reads Review - The Island by Jen Minkman

Title: The Island
Author: Jen Minkman
Release Date: June 1, 2013
Pages: 138, Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 3.22 stars
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars
My Content Rating: PG-16 (References to sex, though none is shown; Some violence)

Summary from Goodreads: ‘I walk toward the sea. The endless surface of the water extends to the horizon, whichever way I look.

Our world is small. We are on our own, and we only have ourselves to depend on. We rely on the Force deep within us, as taught to us by our forefathers. 

If I were to walk westward from here, I would come across a barrier – the Wall. Behind it, there are Fools. At least, that’s what everyone says.

I have never seen one.’

Leia lives on the Island, a world in which children leave their parents to take care of themselves when they are ten years old. Across this Island runs a wall that no one has ever crossed. The Fools living behind it are not amenable to reason – they believe in illusions. That’s what The Book says, the only thing left to the Eastern Islanders by their ancestors.
But when a strange man washes ashore and Leia meets a Fool face to face, her life will never be the same. Is what she and her friends believe about the Island really true?

Or is everyone in their world, in fact, a Fool?

(Please note: this novella contains a few references to the famous sci-fi movie Star Wars which are pivotal to the plot. None of the characters in The Island are in any way related to the characters in the movie. Leia is named after one of the ancient heroes of her culture/religion.)

When picked The Island as my October Random Read I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed.  It seemed that it was getting some pretty mixed reviews and novellas don't usually really appeal to me.  Fortunately, I found that I was very intrigued by the concept of this book and that kept me enjoying it despite the fact that the characters could have used a bit more development.  

The negatives:
  • The development.  Because this was a novella, there really wasn't enough time for a lot of development of the characters.  Likewise, not much time was spent on the romance in this story.  It was fine and I liked Leia and Walt, but we just didn't get to really see anything develop between them, so I wasn't terribly invested in them getting together.  Also, the reveal of the society's history (while very interesting) was done all at once and I wished that it had been discovered a bit more, but there just wasn't time for that.
  • A few editing issues.  There were a few editing issues in this book, which were probably mostly caused by the fact that the book was written in Dutch and translated into English.  They weren't horrible, though.
What I Loved:
  • Society based on fantasy.  I thought that this was a really interesting and unique concept.  What if a whole society was based on the "truths" that were presented in a work of fantasy? (In this case, it was Star Wars  - actually, not even really Star Wars, but a version of it - I don't want to spoil exactly what that means.)  I thought it was very interesting to think about what this would mean and how people's beliefs can be formed. I was extremely intrigued by the history of Leia's island society and how it came to be and how the Fools and the Unbelievers ended up splitting apart.  
  • Kids on their own.  I also thought the idea of kids being sent off to raise themselves at age 10 was very intriguing.  What would a kid-led society look like and how would it work?  I enjoyed discovering how they came up with some of their odd customs and beliefs.
The Island is an intriguing novella that really got me thinking.  While it could have been longer, it was still a very enjoyable read.  I rate it 3.5/5 stars.