The Island, M. A. Bennett

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My transformation was complete. Humbled Edmond Dantes had become the Count of Monte Cristo

Link is a fish out of water. Newly arrived from America, he is finding it hard to settle into the venerable and prestigious Osney School. 

When a school summer trip is offered, Link can think of nothing worse than spending voluntary time with his worst tormentors. The saying goes ‘No man is an island’ – but what if on that island is a group of teenagers, none of whom particularly like each other? 

* * *
3 / 5

I think I might have actually liked this one better than S.T.A.G.S! The Island is just as psychological and disturbing as Bennett’s first book, but I felt that the writing was better in The Island and the characters more compelling.

There was clearly no getting off of my own personal, desolate, island

Link has moved from America to England and is enrolled in an old and prestigious school; he hates it. Osney School is ridiculous and groups its students by how fast they can run around the courtyard. When Link runs the slowest time in years, he becomes the new lowest rung on the social ladder and his life becomes living hell. I really did feel for Link during all this bullying, as he’s quite a pitiable figure at the start. Then he strikes a deal with his parents: if he takes part on a summer school trip, he’s allowed to transfer out of Osney.

Then the plane crash lands on an island. Link is surrounded by a bunch of characters that are (intentional) stereotypes: we have the jock, the pretty girl, the bully, the emo, and a few more. Having spent all his school year being tormented, Link realises that here, on the island, his knowledge of survival is power. And that’s the main message of The Island: power corrupts. It’s a classic message, not particularly original, but I thought it was executed really well.

“You don’t choose women. We’re not chocolate bars”

Link becomes absolutely hate-able. This is on purpose, obviously. He’s your “classic nerd”: thinks girls hate him, inferiority complex, the whole shebang. The moment he gets a hint of power he’s all about taking his revenge and turns into a raging misogynist; it’s cleverly done though, as the reader you are fully aware that he is meant to be disliked and that his behaviour is reprehensible. Like in S.T.A.G.S, Bennett’s writing is lovely and smooth.

Whilst clever, The Island does run on a lot of stereotypes and that got a bit boring. The twist at the end was easily guessed and didn’t pack much of a punch, Link’s parents were “wtf worthy”, and the epilogue was cringe-worthy. Despite this, I absolutely tore through The Island and was enthralled by it.

My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of this book

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