The Island by M.A Bennett
Published August 9th 2018 by Hot Key Books
“My transformation was complete. Humbled Edmond Dantes had become the Count of Monte Cristo”
Link is a fish out of water. Newly arrived from America, he is finding it hard to settle into the venerable and prestigious Osney School. Who knew there could be so many strange traditions to understand? And what kind of school ranks its students by how fast they can run round the school quad – however ancient that quad may be? When Link runs the slowest time in years, he immediately becomes the butt of every school joke. And some students are determined to make his life more miserable than others . . .
When a school summer trip is offered, Link can think of nothing worse than spending voluntary time with his worst tormentors. But when his parents say he can only leave Osney School – forever – if he goes on the trip, Link decides to endure it for the ultimate prize. But this particular trip will require a very special sort of endurance. The saying goes ‘No man is an island’ – but what if on that island is a group of teenagers, none of whom particularly like each other? When oppressive heat, hunger and thirst start to bite, everyone’s true colours will be revealed. Let the battle commence . . .
I received a digital copy of The Island via NetGalley and then also brought an early physical copy at YALC this year, I’ve always been fascinated by Lord of the Flies and I’d heard such good things about STAGS that I couldn’t say no.
The Island only took me a few days to read but I’ll be damned if they weren’t a hard few days. Being a mood reader I find I’m very often affected by the tone of the book I’m reading and for the first two-thirds of this book I had to make sure I was not becoming an evil tyrant in my own home (thankfully I wasn’t but I was a little extra grumpy).
I had a lot of trouble dealing with the books main character Lincoln (only his friends and family call him Link and I’m certainly neither of those). Lincoln goes through an interesting and honestly slightly terrifying character arc that made me feel super uncomfortable which was a weird feeling because along side that I was thinking about how great this book was because I assumed that was the general idea. I’m certain that for at least the middle third of the book we’re not meant to like Lincoln. I believe in the first third we’re supposed to emphasise with him, in the middle we root for him a little and then progressively hate him and by the end I imagine we’re meant to feel he’s learned his lesson and completed his character arc to its fullest, all is forgiven etc. This bothers me. I have a reputation when reading to quite often detest a character and then fall in love with them (Rhys from ACOTAR, Rowan from TOG even Nik from Gemina) but I feel like the point when I’m suposed to forgive Lincoln in this book I actually hate him even more because of it.
I hate to be stereotypical in any way but this book is chock full of stereotypes, I understand why and I like that parts of that were turned on their head with most of the characters other than Lincoln himself. He refers to himself as a stereotyped nerd and listed off the things he did or that applied to him and why this made him the “lesser spotted nerd” who couldn’t speak to girls, who locked himself in his room all day and wore glasses pretty much just because he thought it made him look nerdier. URGH. The worst part is he is a giant creep. Reading his actions, especially from his justified point of view, as a woman (I imagine this will also affect others of different genders as well – I don’t often refer to mine and the way it makes me feel but in this case it felt like it made a difference to me personally) made me so incredibly uncomfortable I would make a point of watching some cutesy cartoons before bed to make me feel better.
This is fine. I was expecting to be a little horrified but to be honest I was imagining something a bit more physically violent and domineering which was what I was prepared for, I hadn’t realised how psychological it would be and how it would affect me and I wish I was eloquent enough to add the right kind of trigger warning or similar to my reviews for the way this book made me feel. I say this is fine in regards to how the book made me feel for most of it because I was fairly certain we were not meant to like Lincoln and I admired the difficulty of writing this immensely unlikable character who is honestly a bit of a monster and I still do. I do personally however wish that the last third and the ending were different and would reflect Lincolns actions instead of rewarding him. I won’t say much more because I do still want to keep this review as spoiler free as possible but I couldn’t keep quiet about my feelings towards the main character.
I want to say that for the most part I liked this book which is why it got a XXX rating and not lower but trying to ignore Lincoln is kind of like trying to ignore most of the book. I liked the other characters and the parallels to the breakfast club etc. I really enjoyed some of the reveals about the other characters, Flora in particular after being “the emo” at school myself, I even enjoyed parts of the big revel towards the end despite calling it a good while before. The epilogue however just completely destroyed it for me and I’ve been thinking of reconsidering my rating because of it and only on reflection of the rest of the book did I decide to keep it despite me being so angry about it. I enjoy a book that can make me feel things intensely and I knew this book wasn’t going to be an emotional walk in the park but it did leave me with an uncomfortable feeling and a bitter taste in my mouth. I’m hoping this is maybe just a very brave deliberate intention by the author, if this is the case it has been done immensely well.
A lot of other readers have said they prefered STAGS and after enjoying M.A Bennetts writing style and gutsy plays for the most part in The Island I’ve decided to give STAGS a go in the near future and see how they compare.
Have you read The Island? If so what were your thoughts on it? Feel free to link me any of your reviews about it as I’d love to hear what others think about this possibly controversial book!