I’ve sort of been on a dystopian reading binge lately. But honestly, I’ve started many books in this genre and have not been able to finish them because they are just too dark.
On the Other Side of the Island was different. And even if you’re not usually a fan of dystopian, I think you might still like this book. It raises interesting questions about control, individuality, and family loyalty.
*While I’ve seen this title listed as YA in some places, the main character is 10 when the story starts and the voice is decidedly MG.
Synopsis from Amazon:
In the eighteenth glorious year of Enclosure, long after The Flood, a young girl named Honor moves with her parents to Island 365 in the Tranquil Sea. Life on the tropical island is peaceful—there is no sadness and no visible violence in this world. Earth Mother and her Corporation have created New Weather. The sky is always blue and it almost never rains. Every family fits into its rightful, orderly, and predictable place…
Except Honors. Her family does not follow the rules. They ignore curfew, sing songs, and do not pray to Earth Mother. Honor doesn’t fit in with the other children at the Old Colony School. Then she meets Helix, a boy with a big heart who slowly helps her uncover a terrible secret about the Island: Sooner or later, those who do not fit disappear, and they don’t ever come back.
Honor knows her family could be next, and when the unthinkable happens, she must make the dangerous journey to the Other Side of the Island—before Earth Mother comes for her too…
What I liked:
1.Lyrical prose. One of my pet peeves with dystopians is that they often have lots of action, but little attention to the actual writing. Goodman’s writing is beautiful, and she creates such a rich mood and atmosphere. I felt like I was there on this island.
2.The importance of names. One of the major plot points of this book is about Honor’s name. In this society, kids from the same birth year are named with the same letter. While Honor’s name does start with H, the h is silent. I loved how her name showed so much about her parents and later was instrumental in the story’s conclusion.
3.Conformity vs. being unique. This theme is often common in dystopians, but I liked Honor’s character arc of how she grew from wanting to be like everyone else, which tweens will relate to, to fighting the system.
4.Awesome parents. You know how much I love good parents. These parents are nonconformists, even when Honor urges them not to be. They embrace originality and art and are working hard to remember the real past—and trying to get Honor to remember too.
5.Nods to class literature. It’s very unusual to find classics in dystopian books. One of my favorite parts of this book was when Honor discovers that the real Wizard of Oz really has a tornado in it. (In a world where bad weather has been eliminated, books about storms are banned.)
6.Open Ending. This book has gotten some complaints about its ending. I don’t mind an open ending as long as it works for the book. Not every plot question is answered at the end, but that made it all the more believable.
For my writer friends:
This is not a MG, but I just finished the most amazing craft book, Story Genuis by Lisa Cron. If you ever struggle like I do with crafting your protagonist’s misbelief, this book is genius (couldn’t help myself with that pun)! It’s a great step-by-step guide on how to build your plot from the inside out with an emphasis on the character’s internal struggle and character arc.
If you'd like to read more middle grade reviews or join in the MMGM fun, go to Greg Pattridge's Always in the Middle blog.
What books have you loved lately?