Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Island by Jen Minkman - Ashley's Review

*I received this novella as an eARC from Patchwork Press on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Island
Author: Jen Minkman
Year Published: 2013

Synopsis: "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.)

Review: This novella took me by surprise. When I saw that there were references to Star Wars, I figured it would be something having to do with space and all of that jazz. Maybe aliens? Maybe this island was on a planet from the Star Wars universe? Yeah, that was all totally wrong. The references are very important to the plot, but Minkman does an excellent job making this her own story. Characters might share names, and there are Star Wars characters mentioned and talked about, but that's about it. The plot is totally original, and I actually thoroughly enjoyed it.

The pacing for me was a little weird at times, and it made parts kind of difficult to get through. Some times we get too much detail (although it does end up being necessary), and other times I felt like there just wasn't enough. Something happens, and then all of a sudden the kids just accept that their way of life is wrong? That just didn't seem realistic to me. Especially when you consider how old the children are (19 is considered to be very old to still be living in the mansion with the children). I think that some of the issues I had with pacing though were because this novella could totally have been expanded into a full novel. Don't get me wrong, it works as a novella too. 

Another place that this story might have benefited from being a full novel would be in the characters. We learn quite a bit about Leia, and how she sees the world and what she thinks about the situation, but we hardly see any of the others. We know who her friends are, and kind of what their personalities are, but they're very one-dimensional and very stagnant. They don't do anything really unexpected, and that's such a shame. Maybe if this had alternated viewpoints between Luc and Leia? I don't know. It was just lacking something there. 

Overall, this was an excellent short story. The plot is gripping, if a little strangely paced, and it's interesting to see how children/early teens adapt to their lives being turned completely upside down. I would love to read this if it were ever expanded into a novel! And would totally recommend this to anyone who enjoys dystopian stories, and especially people who are fans of Star Wars but want something completely different. 4/5 for this one.


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