2 out of 4 stars
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In Island Games, two teen boys, Mathew and Ryan, wake to find themselves on an island. They have no recollection of how they got there, or where they came from. What memories they do have, amount to only bits and pieces of their previous lives. They soon realize they must find food, water, and a way to make contact with the outside world. As they go off in pursuit of these goals, they are confronted with monsters they must fight and challenges to resolve.
I had known going in, the author, Caleb J. Boyer, was a young writer. Boyer has chosen his audience well, and the story has an excellent flow. The plot is clear even though some of the questions the tale poses are never resolved. The target audience, mid-grade to young adults, is right on.
Characterization is good but not great; a particular example of a weakness is the scene where Mathew throws a temper tantrum. This is the opposite of how he has acted in the first three-fourths of the book. I also had an issue with the way Boyer bounces from one character’s point of view to the other. The leaps were abrupt and left me wondering whose eyes I saw through.
As for the motivation of the characters, I would believe that finding oneself stranded on an island and fighting for one’s life, danger lurking around every corner, would be an all-consuming endeavor, and there would be no time for fun and games. The obstacles in the boy’s way throughout the story are immense. Additionally, the way they find themselves tossed from one part of the island to another would be at the very least unsettling. Yet, on occasions in Island Games, our main characters, Matthew and Ryan, are wasting time and energy playing at snowball fighting or dunking one another in a pond.
Another issue for me is the battle scenes. Simply put, they are unrealistic. For instance, stabbing a large four-legged beast with a knife would likely have been impossible for the boys to begin with. But, given that they managed to do so, the likelihood of landing a fatal blow in such a situation, with one stroke, would be just as unlikely.
Boyer has done a fair job of presenting his story. I rate Island Games 2 out of 4 stars. I would recommend it for eight-year-olds up to about fourteen or fifteen-year-olds. The adventure is fun. While it is often amateurish in its presentation, it came across much better than I expected.
I think the biggest issue for me was that Boyer takes an opportunity after the story has ended to preach about the virtues of working together and keeping calm. While I like the message, I felt it would have been much better had Boyer had the confidence in his story to let it speak for itself. If he feels compelled to make such commentary, it would be more appropriately presented in a separate book.
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