3 out of 4 stars
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Usually when I choose a book to review it’s because I think it could benefit from some more attention. It was just the opposite when I chose to review Island Games:Mystery of the Four Quadrants by Caleb J. Boyer. I saw that the book was getting a lot of attention and by the time I had come across the one hundredth Online Book Club reviewer who had given it a four star rating, I was feeling like I had missed out on something extremely special.
The book begins with two teenage boys who are unconscious and have been washed up on the sandy beach of an uninhabited island. Matthew awakes first and recognizes his best friend, Ryan laying several yards away from him. But besides their names, that they are best friends and the basics of how to live and exist, they both discover that most of their memories are either gone or very vague. And that ends up having dire consequences, because they are about to face life threatening situations and several puzzles just to survive.
The plot moves quickly and the problems start arriving fast and furiously. Not just how to find food and shelter, but many harrowing situations descend on them that occur so frequently it leads the boys to conclude that they are not happening by mere chance. This becomes even more evident as time progresses and they see that even their behaviour and attitudes can affect the outcome of circumstances and challenges. Which is something I am currently relating to.
I am going to reveal right now that I gave Island Games a rating of only 3 stars out of 4 for you to keep in mind as I do some very fast typing to explain my reasoning, before I become the most ostracized person at OBC, if not the entire world.
I should start by saying that I have spent a great deal of time, right from babyhood, around teenage boys. And as juicy as that sounds, it’s actually not. I was a tag along, tom-boy sister to my older brother and his many friends for my first ten years and, during my teen years, I attended a very small Christian school and the 25 boys I met at thirteen years old were the same ones I graduated with five years later. Each one is still like a brother to me. Then I spent my adult years working with teenagers in distress. And Island Games is definitely a book about teenage boys in distress. But as the two best friends work together to find their way out of their problems and off the island, much of it rang untrue. I particularly found the dialogue between them very stilted given the situations they were in and I got so weary of reading the phrase “best friend”. It actually occurs in the book 32 times. I thought the dialogue between the boys and how they interacted was the most believable when they were not getting along.
My second issue with the book is that I have seen this story so many times before. Was I the only person who immediately thought of the "Hunger Games", which was published many years previously? Or the movies "Total Recall" and "Castaway" or too many "Star Trek" and Science Fiction TV shows to count? To be perfectly honest, while I was reading this book in bed I actually fell asleep. Twice. (So much for my invitation to the OBC Spring Dance.)
As strange as this may sound, I had absolutely no problem with the abrupt ending or the reason for it, but on the other side I didn’t feel I could give this book an extra star simply because the author was only twelve years old when he wrote it. I either enjoy a story or not. It has nothing to do with who the author is or what type of person they may be. But let me conclude on a positive note, as I so desire to do.
Firstly, this book has no graphic sex scenes or foul language and the violence is rather mild and perfectly justifiable. I didn’t find any typos or grammatical errors. And I did take into consideration the unusual youth of it’s author when I was considering the wisdom and life lessons woven into the foundation of this entertaining and suspenseful adventure story. It is aimed predominantly at the Young Adult reader, but I am happy to recommend it to anyone of any age. Because it is a good book. I just truthfully didn’t consider it an exceptional book.
However, I suspect that as Caleb J. Boyer adds more experiences to his already perceptive nature and obvious writing talents, his next book will definitely be exceptional and I am looking forward to reading it. And even though I wholeheartedly agreed with the author’s comments at the end of the book to explain the strange ending, I felt he was missing a key element. And I pose this as a question directly for him to consider.
Perhaps the reason we were created and given our lives is not just to learn and grow and make ourselves and our world better. That may be only a lesser part. Perhaps our main purpose and reason to make ourselves and our world better is to more fully enjoy playing games. To enjoy life and delight in our Maker, who delights in us. I found the word “joy” 242 times in the Bible and the word “rejoice” 154 times. And don’t even get me started on the words, “delight”, “sing” and “laugh”.
“The Lord your God is in your midst; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing… [and he] will fill me with joy in [his presence], with eternal pleasures at his right hand.” Zephaniah 3:17 and Psalm 16:11
Thank you for taking the time to read another of my reviews.
Sincerely, Laura-Lee Rahn
Uh. Can I get the key to the Review Team washroom back now?
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