The Island by M.A. Bennett

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The Island by M.A. Bennett, Don't Bend the Spine, UK Book Blog

Is this it?  Is summer over now?  Before I crack out the jumpers and start putting together a Christmas TBR, I’ll tell you what I thought of The Island by M.A. Bennett.

The Island by M.A. Bennett

Publication Date: 9th August 2018
Hot Key Books
Genre: YA
Paperback, 366 pages
Synopsis:  New boy Link is finding it hard to settle in at the venerable and prestigious Osney School. Who knew there could be so many strange traditions to understand?  Link’s naivety makes him the butt of every school joke and the bullying soon becomes hard to bear.  Then his parents relent and say he can leave Osney School if he attends a school summer camp first.  Willingly spend time with his worst tormentors?  Is he crazy?  But maybe enduring it will be worth it for his freedom. This particular trip, though, will require a very special sort of endurance. 

Even though I was familiar with M.A. Bennett, as her debut novel S.T.A.G.S is a favourite with my fellow book bloggers, I had yet to read her books.  The lovely team at Hot Key Books offered the opportunity to bloggers to receive a copy of her latest release, The Island and I was somehow one of them (thank you!).  Pitched as a contemporary reimagining of the classic Lord of The Flies, I was intrigued to see how M.A Bennett had interpreted it and made it her own.  During a (much-needed) day off work, I settled down to read it for just half an hour … and ended up finishing the whole book a few hours later.  Let me tell you, no one was more surprised than me at how quickly I read it.

The first thing I remember about the island is opening my eyes and seeing nothing but sand, up really close like it was under a microscope.

Homeschooled from a young age, Lincoln (also known as Link), is a fish out of water at the prestigious Osney School.  A school where your sporting ability dictates your social standing, Link is immediately singled out due to his poor performance in a timed race.  Over the next three years, Link is bullied, harassed and publicly humiliated again and again by his fellow classmates.  At the end of the final school year, Link is ready to leave school, much to his parents’ horror, and they beg him to reconsider.  Eventually, they reach a compromise: if Link attends the ‘Preparation for Life’ training camp over the summer, they will let him leave Osney School – forever!  On the way to camp, the plane crashes mid-flight, and Link finds himself on a mysterious island with his tormentors for company.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Island as I went in knowing very little.  The first thing I will say is that I was anticipating some scenes of violence due to it being inspired by Lord of the Flies, but it wasn’t as violent as I was expecting.  I will, however, warn you that there is a graphic scene of animal slaughter which may upset some readers.

The Island had a sense of mystery throughout, a feeling that something wasn’t quite right.  Whilst I had some suspicions about what was going on, I was still pleasantly surprised by some of the reveals.  I was also impressed by the amount of research M.A. Bennett must have had to do to make sure these kids knew how to survive on a desert island.   I probably would not survive, although a desert island sounds preferable to attending Osney School.  As someone often picked last in PE, attending this school would be my idea of hell.

The story is solely told from the perspective of Link.  His narration is sarcastic and dry, yet oddly engaging.  He’s not the most likeable person – he is the type of person who wears fake glasses to appear more of a ‘geek’ *eye roll* On the island, Link undergoes a mental and physical transformation, changing from a bullied outsider to egomaniac leader.  Through Link and the fellow residents of the island, M.A Bennett weaves together stories of power, misogyny, pressure, bullying and privilege.  Naming themselves the Breakfast Club – as there is the Jock, the Nerd, the Emo, the Cheerleader, and the Prodigy – the fellow residents of the island are exaggerated stereotypes of their Breakfast Club labels.    It turns out Link is in good company, as pretty much all of the characters are awful people, with the exception of Flora.  I’m probably not alone in thinking that the book needed more Flora.  

As I read The Island in a matter of hours, I can’t deny that I found it an enjoyable read.  I know this is going to sound mean, but the epilogue slightly soured things for me, and I would have awarded a higher rating if the book hadn’t ended it the way it did.    I would recommend The Island to young teens who are looking for a thrilling tale of revenge and power, but older readers will be able to enjoy it too – just like I did!  I have to say, reading The Island has definitely encouraged me to read S.T.A.G.S sooner rather than later.  *scuttles off to the library*

Rating:  3* | Recommend? Yes

30th August 2018
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