Orphan Island (hardcover)
by Laurel Snyder
Orphan Island is a mysterious setting where 9 kids live without adult supervision. Each year (?… time is slightly ambiguous, seasons are virtually non-existent, and days are marked by rocks and slashes inconsistently), a young child is sent to the island in a green boat. The boat knows where to go and moves on it’s own, although it is its own entity. When the new Care arrives, the Elder (oldest orphan) gets into the boat and goes off to… well, we don’t know where, but it is assumed some sort of civilization. The 9 orphans learn to care for themselves, and the Elder teaches his/her Care (youngest arrival) how to survive on the island. It is very Peter Pan-like, an island where kids are free from adult supervision, and live happily without cares in the world.
When Jinny says goodbye to her best friend, Deen, she is the new Elder. She takes Ess, her new Care, under her wing, but Jinny has several character flaws. She is inherently selfish without realizing it, because she isn’t thinking of the greater good, but her own feelings. She fails to teach Ess to swim or read, and doesn’t show Ben how to take over when she’s gone, her most important jobs as Elder. Jinny is left with a huge decision once it’s her time to get into the green boat, and we are left wondering whether we’d make that same decision.
What I liked about this book was that it was very well thought out. It’s clear that Snyder has a backstory for the island, and she did a good job of asking questions through the story that makes me as the reader wonder what I would do. Think of when you were 12… If you were ever angry at your parents, confused about what you were feeling of what was happening to your body, you will be able to relate to Jinny. That can be a good and a bad thing…
What I didn’t like about this book was Jinny’s character. It’s hard reading a story where you don’t really care for the protagonist. Normally, you’re rooting for the protagonist in the story, but as an adult, I wasn’t agreeing with Jinny’s decisions. As a 12 year old, I might really be able to relate to her selfishness, and the way she felt about the others on the island. She was looking for someone to relate to, and found solace in a letter written by a previous resident, Abigail. Although it bugged me, I can see why this is a well-received novel. I look forward to the reactions by my students.
Book 32 of 40