2 out of 4 stars
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Island Games is a work of fiction written by Caleb J. Boyer.
The book follows the unlikely adventures of two boys named Matthew and Ryan, who have been placed on a mysterious island to conquer their fears, not knowing how or by whom and not remembering of any circumstance that brought them to these shores. The story develops as the two young boys learn about the island and as they try to make sense of their surroundings. They will face tremendous challenges along their paths and they’ll also bond in ways that they did not think possible.
The book is well written, if not rather “simple” to read, which in this case is not a bad thing. I say “simple” because the vocabulary is very juvenile, which is understandable when a book is written by a (talented) twelve year old and it's targeted at other teenagers. As the main characters say: “We're just two teenage boys after all!”. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear from adults who have enjoyed reading this book though, since the story is gripping and the structure is fun. However, the book feels unpolished at times, where explanations feel rushed and details are lost in trying to bring the story forward.
Also, the juvenile aspects of the book can sometimes result to be somewhat unsettling, since many passages feel fairly unimaginative if we consider the grander scheme of things. Some of the events that occur in the story feel very familiar to the typical “adventure” story, where things crumble to pieces and middle grounds between safety and destruction hardly ever exist, if not for the moments where our heroes recover, often talking and joking about their day.
With that said, Island Games is a good book, to be read by the younger generations. The book wants to install some kind of awareness that is hardly to be found in a boy's mindset, where challenges in life are seen as a barrier to overcome, to then appreciate what lies beyond. While I applaud the attempt, I did not find the result to be all that moving. Yes, there are ways to extrapolate some actual lessons out of the stories that are told, but I didn’t consider them to be ground-breaking, if not for a few surprising sentences near the end of the book that astonished me, thinking about the author’s age.
It was tough for me to give this book a score: I wanted it to lie somewhere in the middle, between two and three stars, but the official rating does not allow for such a thing. I shall therefore rate this book 2 out of 4 stars.
I thought about the rating in these terms: the book is fun and gripping, for which it deserves a lot. However, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that something was missing for the entire read. I thought about gravitating towards three stars to compliment the effort, but I figured that there was still room for improvement for an author that will most likely have a brilliant career, if he keeps working on his craft the way he has done so far.
I hope this will be seen as one of the many challenges that Ryan and Matthew will have to overcome and not as a drawback, dragging both characters down into quicksand. I noticed a few errors throughout the book, but they were all typos and they amounted to just six instances, which did not detract from the reading experience. Grammar was good.
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