The adventure is brilliant...
Think Lord of the Flies, but toned down to fit the Middle Grade genre. We have an island of children, nine to be precise, all supposed orphans, or at least currently being raised without parental assistance. So, if there are no parents, you might be wondering a few things. Who guides them, nurtures them, feeds them, and makes sure they learn what needs to be learned? They do, or rather the other children that have comes before them, as well as the island itself. Curious, right? Oh, you've no idea. It's a rather emotionally charged moment, the entrance and the exit of a new soul among them. From the moment the newest Elder takes on the Care (newly arrived child) to when the former Elder leaves for who-knows-where in the boat with a mind of its own. You get hints of the bigger questions lurking about as the tale moves forward, but, if you're at all like me, you'll be caught by surprise when the finale comes to pass.
The characters are memorable...
Whether human or island born, they create a memorable storyboard in the mind. On the human side of things, the one we get to know the most is Jinny. She's the new Elder but that doesn't mean she knows everything...in fact, it's much the opposite the she is finding out. She questions everything, is unsure of the simplest things, and is unable to find her own voice half the time. Guess what? It's called growing up and while hard on us all, it's still something that has to be done. She makes the best of it, acts out when it gets too much, accepts some help from those around her, and despite making a mess of things, her good intentions and gentle heart win out in the end. On the animal/mineral side of the coin, the island itself is a character too. From the unusual calmness that emanates from normally fickle creatures to the protective winds and mists that seem to blanket their precious island from would be prying eyes, it's a world of both harshness and wonder with a beauty all its own.
The ending is curious...
Okay, so I have a little more insight as to the "why's" and "how's" after having read the education guide available for the book (thanks Debbie!), but at face value, I'm not certain the target audience is going to really see beyond the adventure in front of them. After I finished reading, I even had to take a few steps back to reconsider everything I'd read and reevaluate the overall meaning. It's definitely a "big picture" message...cherish childhood days because the great unknown is coming...but at the same time, I think it's meant to reassure that while yes, it IS unknown, you've been preparing your whole life for it whether you know it or not.
All things considered, it's a wonderful story capturing the wildly sweet freedom that is imbued in our younger days while adding a mysterious luster to the teen-dom years ahead.
Until next time, remember...if it looks good, READ IT!