Island Games by Caleb J Boyer, is marketed for a Young Adults, but I think that’s inaccurate. I typically enjoy YA novels (judge me, if you like) but this was not what I was expecting and I am not a fan. I rarely write negative reviews, opting instead for the “be nice or be quiet” motto that my momma drilled into us as children, but I have decided an honest review is worthwhile. I can’t only tell y’all about stuff I like. If I find something I don’t enjoy, I should be open enough to share that with you as well. Bonus: I could actually save you some time and money!
The premise of the book according to Amazon looks like this:
When two boys wake up on a mysterious island, survival becomes more than a game…Matthew and Ryan have no idea where they are. After waking up on a sandy beach with no clue how they got there, they realize they have no supplies, no shelter, and no way of escaping the creepy island. Their only chance of surviving the terrors of the night requires counting on each other…
The reality is that this book is messy and written more for middle schoolers than YA. It’s very repetitive and confusing. In defense of the author, Boyer is in fact a middle schooler at the age of 12, so my issues with the writing will almost certainly be remedied as he grows older and expands his vocabulary. I literally lost count tracking all the times he used the word “said” and “exhausted” or various forms of thereof. It might be a good idea for him to invest in a thesaurus before continuing in the series. I appreciate that this is his first novel, and for a preteen to even write a novel, is very impressive. I also can appreciate that writing a book at any age is hard work. That being said, I would not choose to spend money on this particular book.
Matthew and Ryan wake up on a creepy island with little to no memory of their lives before. From there they go through a series of challenges and trials in an attempt to survive and get off the island. It honestly feels like the boys are characters in a video game, slowly becoming self-aware and begin to worry less about getting off the island and more about beating the games.
Like a video game, the trails are pretty self evident and result in immediate reward: supplies, food, weapons, etc. It’s a very interesting idea for a book, I just don’t think Boyer put quite enough effort into figuring out who his characters were before “completing” the book.
The boys seem very unfinished. Sometimes, when they speak, they seem like high school age boys, 16-17, who can make adult-ish level connections to the world around them and try to solve real, life-size problems. Sometimes, they sound like elementary age children. They bicker and make-up constantly, but nothing ever really seems to change or evolve between them. Boyer spells it out for you (the reader) that they are growing closer and bonding and so grateful to have the other there with them, but the characters actions and language rarely supports those spoon-fed conclusions.
The book has a great deal of promise, I’m just not convinced Boyer is “there” yet. Hopefully, he will improve with his next installment to this series.
I rate this book 1 out of 4 bolts.