Monday, March 29, 2021

MMGM: Echo Island

I know my blogging has been sporadic of late. It's been a very busy school year, and I keep thinking I'm going to catch my breath, and something else comes up. Until summer, I will be posting 2-3 times a month instead of every week. Thanks for understanding!

On to my post:

I’m not sure how to describe this book. It’s not really like anything I’ve read before. And though by the ages of the protagonists, it’d be generally classified as YA, I think advanced MG-ers would enjoy it as well.

Echo Island has been described as Stranger Things meets C.S. Lewis, but I think the movie Stranger than Fiction might be a more apt comparison.

Interestingly enough, this was the book my 18 year old, who doesn’t normally read a lot of fiction, devoured. My 16 year old didn’t like it. “It’s weird,” was his only comment.

If you like speculative fiction in the truest sense of the word, you will enjoy this book.

Synopsis from Amazon:

When four recent high school graduates return home from a weekend of camping, they expect to go back to life as usual. Instead, the boys discover empty streets, abandoned cars, and utter silence—everyone has disappeared.

As the friends attempt to solve the mystery, they stumble upon more questions than answers. Why won’t the electronics work? Where did the wind go? What do the notebooks full of gibberish mean? With each new discovery, they learn that nothing was ever quite what it seemed on Echo Island and that a deep secret is drawing them in—if only they would surrender to it.

Join Bradley, Jason, Archer, and Tim on this exploration into myth and mystery. Uncover exactly what happened on Echo Island and what these four friends’ story has to do with God, the meaning of life, and the nature of reality.

What I liked:

1.  Four teenage boys who sound like teens. Although publishers are always talking about how they want to find books that appeal to boys, I have found that books that actually appeal to boys are few and far between. It’s also rare to find realistic boy friendships in MG/YA fiction.

2.  Character arcs. Now some reviewers have complained that not every character has an arc in this book. But that's point. One of the themes of this book is whether you can change your life's trajectory. Unfortunately, not everyone wants to change, and I like how that’s reflected in these characters.

3.  A twist that really threw me, but in a good way. I thought I had this story figured out about 10 pages in. But I was wrong—or at least mostly. About ¾ of the way through the book there is a major twist I never saw coming. And I think there’s still a lot I don’t quite understand about the book. But I think that’s a sign of good writer. He got me thinking.

4.  Lots of allusions to Greek classics, Dante, and Lewis.  If you are a reader of Dante, the Greek myths, or Perelandra (Lewis’ space trilogy), there’s a lot of allusions here. These allusions threw me off though and made me think I knew the story, when I didn’t. Not many kids are familiar with these works, so they may not pick up on them. But for those who are, this will be an Easter egg hunt of familiar characters and stories.

5.  Existential themes and questions. Although death (especially of parents) is an epidemic in kidlit, surprisingly, I don’t see many books that deal with the existential themes—like what does life really mean? This book deals with some of those questions in a way I’ve never seen in MG or YA fiction.

Minor Quibbles: None. But this book is not for everyone. I know I will be thinking about it for a long time.

Content warning: This is fairly violent in parts and does include an instance of teenage drinking.

What books have you made you think lately?

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.


  1. I agree that there aren't many books that would appeal to boys. This one sounds like a good one for them and would appeal to both MG and YA readers. It sounds kind of dystopian to me.

  2. sounds intriguing in a vaguely dystopian-YA way. something my kids would have loved as younger teens. I like books that ask about life, the universe, and everything.

  3. Interesting background on the plot. Thanks for featuring on MMGM. I know several teen boys who would most likely devour this book like yours did.

  4. The cover indicates a pretty spooky story. This doesn't sound like my cup of tea, but I'm sure it will get lots of readers. Thanks for telling me about it.

  5. The cover is very intriguing. I can see it pulling in a lot of readers. Interesting that your kids felt so differently about it- but I guess that is the beauty of reading. It really is so subjective. :) Thanks for sharing.

  6. There are so many things on your list of things you liked that are catching my eye. Perelandra? A good twist? Interesting.

  7. This sounds like a really intriguing story! I love that it ends up being unpredictable, and I also appreciate that only some of the characters muster up the courage to change—that's a theme I see time and time again in my own life! Thanks for the great review!

  8. This sounds like and interesting read. Thanks for this great review.