Review by godreaujea -- Island Games by Caleb J. Boyer

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Latest Review: Island Games by Caleb J. Boyer

Review by godreaujea -- Island Games by Caleb J. Boyer

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[Following is a volunteer review of "Island Games" by Caleb J. Boyer.]
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1 out of 4 stars
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Two best friends awaken from unconsciousness to discover that they are stranded on a mysterious island with a large majority of their memories erased. Where are they? Who put them there? How will they escape? Thus begins Island Games by Caleb Boyer.

Island Games is geared toward younger readers. Children ages 8-12 would appreciate this action packed read. Every chapter feels like a level in a video game as best friends Matthew and Ryan are challenged to overcome obstacles to escape the island. Each chapter ends on a cliffhanger that urges the reader to keep reading. There is also a nice theme of friendship throughout the book that would appeal to young readers. I believe these aspects of Island Games are the book’s best qualities but there are several poor qualities that unfortunately limit the book’s audience to such a young age range. The author, Caleb Boyer, was only 10 when he wrote Island Games. For his age, I am impressed by his writing and the book seems to be professionally edited. However, there is still much room for improvement.

One facet of writing that Boyer struggles with is being repetitive. More than once, the narration stated something a character then repeated through dialogue. Also, many of the challenges and lessons learned throughout the story were repetitive. This struggle goes hand in hand with another challenge that Boyer faces, which is telling instead of showing. Boyer often states the action but leaves out imagery and other sensory details which causes repetition in his writing.

Dialogue is tricky, especially for young writers. From the beginning of the book, I assumed that Matthew and Ryan were about 10-12 years old based on their dialogue. For example, Ryan says the last thing he remembers before waking up on the island was the two of them playing PlayStation and he exclaims, “‘I believe I was royally kicking your butt!’” This is the tone for their dialogue throughout the book which makes them seem young, but also seems inauthentic. I don’t know many boys who talk like that. And while I thought Matthew and Ryan were about 10 from their dialogue, it surprised me to read that they are 6’ and 6’3” respectively, showing that Boyer aged them around 16-18 years old. This discrepancy also shows an issue with characterization. Dialogue is supposed to help build characterization, but it did not do so here. In addition, we learn only a little about either character except that Ryan is more impulsive than Matthew. Other than that, they are very much alike and I even got them confused at times.

Lastly, I found the plot to be lacking. There is no resolution following the climax, leaving a lot of questions unanswered. Boyer tried to explain why he did not include a resolution in an author’s note but it still left me unhappy with the ending. Also, the action leading up to the climax was more like a plateau rather than rising. The action did not build up to the climax, rather events happened and the reader figured that they would eventually lead to the ending.

I feel as though young readers could overlook many of these pitfalls and enjoy the story’s action and theme of friendship. However, to gain a wider audience, there is much that Boyer needs to improve. In conclusion, I rate Island Games 1 out of 4 stars. I give one star for the appeal to young readers but I take three away for the issues with repetition, lack of imagery and sensory details, poor dialogue, lack of characterization, and the poor plot structure. As a 7-12 English teacher, I think Boyer’s writing skills are ahead of many of his peers. However, there are many writing skills he needs to hone to be ready to write on a professional level. I hope that Boyer continues to write and perfect his skills because I believe he has a lot of promise.

Island Games
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