3 out of 4 stars
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Island Games: Mystery of the Four Quadrants by Caleb J. Boyer is a young gamer’s fantasy story. It begins dramatically, as friends Matthew and Ryan wake up on a deserted beach on what is apparently an island. A volcano is visible in the distance. Their last memory is sitting in front of the Play Station together, but that is about the extent of what they remember about their previous lives.
As they begin their quest for supplies to keep them alive and a way off the island, they discover how dangerous the place they find themselves really is. Their first adventure has them almost devoured by a shark. They find a crate, which is oddly filled with the basics they need for their survival. After traipsing through the jungle and meeting several terrifying situations, they are transported to a prairie, which is apparently also on the same island because they can still see the volcano. They start to recognize patterns in the tests they face and the rewards they receive after each success. These patterns continue as they are forcibly transported to two other “quadrants” on their mysterious world. It becomes clear that some higher power is controlling their lives. They start facing their predicament like a video game.
The story focuses on the importance of the relationship between the two boys. Their banter, squabbles, and friendship are believable and well developed. They understand that one of the keys to their success on the island is always working together to face the trials they are presented with.
Boyer was 12 years old when he authored this book. It is listed as Young Adult but reads much more at a Middle-Grade level, which obviously makes sense. The ages of the protagonists are never listed, but I would guess they are the same as the author. This would also match the age of the reader who would enjoy this book. As an older reader, the lack of some literary techniques took away from the enjoyment of the story.
The things that I dislike about this novel are both related to writing skills, which I am sure Boyer will master with more practice. There needs to be less “telling” and more “showing”. Often the character’s analysis in the middle of an action-packed moment is distracting and over-done. The other aspect that takes away from the story is how the point-of-view switches back and forth between the boys without any transition. This is confusing and limits the reader’s understanding of the separate personalities of Matthew and Ryan.
My favorite part of the book is the creative description used to illustrate the four different landscapes found in each quadrant.
If I was the teacher of 12-year-old Boyer I would give him an A+ for this project. However, he is writing in a world where his tale must measure up to those written by far more experienced writers. I have no doubt that he will stand proudly with those authors in the future, but for now, I will rate Island Games 3 out of 4, because I believe it will be enjoyed by his peers, despite the lack of a certain level of literary artistry.
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