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Scar Island

Review

Scar Island

SCAR ISLAND may be short in length, but it’s packed with multidimensional characters experiencing powerful and complex emotions. This is an unforgettable novel about the intricacies of guilt and growing up.

Jonathan Grisby is sent to Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys after committing a tragic crime. Slabhenge is a crumbling fortress surrounded by the chaotic ocean, only accessible by boat. And Jonathan is glad he’s sent here. Because he deserves to be punished for what he did.

But before Jonathan gets used to the harsh living conditions and wrathful, incorrigible staff, a freak accident occurs, leaving Jonathan and the rest of his fellow juvenile offenders to fend for themselves. Now Jonathan must navigate the terrors of friendship, competition, and fear in order to find salvation for himself. And until he does, everyone on the island will be in danger.

"SCAR ISLAND may be short in length, but it’s packed with multidimensional characters experiencing powerful and complex emotions. This is an unforgettable novel about the intricacies of guilt and growing up."

Jonathan is an effortlessly relatable character. He possesses a quiet strength that makes the reader pay attention to every thought he has and care about every action he makes. He holds a heavy burden throughout most of the story; the crime that sent him to Slabhenge weighs on his conscious. And as the story progresses, the reader slowly discovers what Jonathan did and why his guilt affects him so formidably. The way that the crime is unveiled is so immensely captivating that it can easily be read in a single sitting. But because Jonathan is crafted so complexly, before the crime can even be revealed, you feel that no matter what he had done he is worthy of forgiveness and hope. He is a truly fascinating character.

SCAR ISLAND is written with a passion, a power, an effortless that is almost ineffably admirable. He makes every character dynamic. Even if a character played the part of the villain, they were depicted sympathetically, and they were always able to find redemption. And while this novel was barely 250 pages, it felt wholly complete. There was never a dull moment, yet it never felt rushed. The story was told effectively, in so few pages, due to the artful plot progression and the complicated, well composed characters.

The only element of SCAR ISLAND that felt out of place was the Librarian. I enjoyed him as a character; he was fascinating, moved the plot along, and helped Jonathan navigate Slabhenge and himself. Honestly, he was one of my favorite characters. But his life at Slabhenge as a human required excessive suspension of disbelief. He lived in secret for decades and could only eat food by sneaking up to the kitchen in the middle of the night when everyone else was sleeping. It just didn’t feel believable. Because of this, the Librarian was disconnected to a story that felt honest and real in its narration and plot in every other way.

Because of its realistic and poignant storytelling, SCAR ISLAND takes you on an exciting journey that you never want to end. It is a smart, well-crafted middle grade novel that can be enjoyed by all ages.

Reviewed by Melissa Hurt on February 23, 2017

Scar Island
by Dan Gemeinhart