Author: Steve Augarde
Genre: YA Post Apocalyptic
Publication Date: July 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover, 480 pages
ISBN-10: 0385751931 (David Fickling Books)
ISBN-13: 978-0385751933 (David Fickling Books)
Reviewed by: Jessie
Ever since the floods came and washed the world away, survivors have been desperate to win a place on X-Isle, the island where life is rumoured to be easier than on what’s left of the mainland. Only young boys stand a chance of admittance, the smaller and lighter the better. Baz and Ray are two of the lucky few to be chosen, but they soon discover that X-Isle is a far cry from paradise….
Powerful and compelling, X–Isle is a fast-moving thriller that will keep you guessing right to the very end.
Quick & Dirty: When it comes to survival, ethics become questionable, and everything comes at a price. Compassion and camaraderie are the only things that give these boys a chance to endure. X-Isle will make you cringe, warm your heart at times while making it race at others, and ultimately leave you to think about what, or really who, is worth surviving for.
Opening Sentence: The steady chug of the diesel engine drew closer, and eventually the salvage boat emerged from the mist, a blank grey shape steering a middle course between the ghostly lines of chimney stacks that rose from the water.
As the main character, everything is told from Baz’s point-of-view. This is important because there are a lot of characters but most of the book is about Baz just plain figuring things out. Some of his observations seem to come about much too slowly, and you end up really having to consider his life and what he’s been told his whole life. Much of this does not have to be explained in detail, which is something I really liked about the book. Since the world got flooded and there’s really not much left, a large part of his and the other X-Isle inhabitants’ lives have been spend simply surviving. Everyone has lost everything and they are just clinging to every little shred of hope that they can, including their belief in the X-Isle and what it means. Because why else would people send their barely teen boys over to an island run by a few old men, unless they were totally and completely desperate?
Baz’s father seems to have done his best to shelter his son in any way possible. This makes it much more difficult for Baz in the long run, when he has to take care of himself. He is simply naïve, which not only makes it really hard for him to understand the crazy animalistic world of survival that surrounds him, but goes beyond that to curse him with an immense sense of guilt at every turn as he tries to follow his father’s last advice to him, “You just worry about yourself, son, that’s all. Look out for number one.”
Ray, on the other hand, is the opposite of naïve. One of the first things he says to Baz is, “Try using your loaf instead of asking dumb questions.” It is no surprise that Ray comes up with most of the plans to overcome their plight; he simply has the most to lose from it all. Several times Baz considers returning to the mainland, and Ray doesn’t even consider it, instead doing his best to look at the specific problem and come up with a solution. It is nice to see how the boys are able to give up their competitiveness at points in the book and when we see compassion take over. And that it comes from inside of them and not from the creepy sermons given by Preacher John.
The main thing that I enjoyed about this book is that the villains in this book are quite believable. Maybe because of the survival atmosphere of the book, maybe from just reading the newspaper lately, these guys are simply in it for themselves, the ultimate opportunists. They are just sinister enough, and I like that. The pacing in this book was also pretty good. It was a little long, but right when you start to think about how many pages are left is when you start to not care how many are left because you get so wrapped up in the plot. There was one part where I was practically holding my breath for a couple chapters. It definitely gets pretty good, and that’s where we really can appreciate only seeing through Baz’s mind, cause he can’t quite catch up to how fast things are moving, try as he might.
The ending to this book was a little problematic for me. After living in a world of survival for so long, it seems that those instincts would stay with the boys at least a little longer. The author tries to touch on that, but doesn’t make it quite convincing enough. Also, the main reason the boys even go to X-Isle is because of their families. There isn’t reference to the families they left behind at the end of the book, which seems somewhat unnatural to me. I would recommend this book more for an adult audience than a teen audience. There is actually less mature material than I was expecting, I was expecting it to be a lot more vulgar than it turned out to be, and I appreciated that, but there is some violent themes throughout the book that may not be appropriate for a less mature audience.
Baz remembered his own desperate tactics to get food the previous evening. ‘Well…I suppose you sort of have to be, don’t you? Out for yourself, I mean?’
Amit stopped what he was doing. ‘Well, that’s pretty good, coming from a newbie. No, actually, you don’t. You try and look out for your mates, is what you do – that’s if you want any mates. Like we tried to look out for you this morning, yeah? Tried to make it so’s you didn’t have carry any of the really heavy stuff.’ Amit stared at him for a moment longer, then returned his attention to the workbench.
‘And that was after what you did last night,’ he muttered. ‘To Enoch. And to Taps. Don’t think we didn’t notice.’
FTC Advisory: David Fickling Books provided me with a copy of X-Isle. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
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