Friday, September 22, 2017

Orphan Island

Orphan Island. Laurel Snyder. 2017. 288 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Jinny heard the bell. She threw down her book, rose from the stale comfort of the old brown sofa, and scrambled for the door. When she burst from the cabin into the evening air, Jinny ran.

Premise/plot: The setting is an island that seems to in some way take care of the nine children who inhabit it. It's not your ordinary island.
Nine on an island, orphans all,
Any more, the sky might fall.
Every year a boat comes bearing a young child--perhaps four or five years of age. The eldest child of the island gets in the boat and departs. The next-to-oldest becomes the new elder and takes charge of the new child. In that one year, the elder will teach her care how to survive--thrive even--on the island. (Or his care.)

Jinny becomes the new elder soon after the novel opens. Her care is a young girl named Ess. Jinny struggles in her role as elder. She both loves and hates it. It is without a doubt the hardest thing she's ever done.

At the end of the year, Jinny knows she should get in the boat--like every other elder that has gone before her. But will she be able to face her fears, face the uncertainties?

Orphan Island, I believe, is supposed to be an allegory about the struggles of growing up, about the journey of leaving childhood behind. Jinny, our heroine, doesn't want to grow up. The idea of leaving the safety of the island behind her and journeying forth literally into the unknown terrifies her. 

My thoughts: Orphan Island left me speechless--for the most part. I have no answers because there are so many questions are still unanswered by the end of the novel. Mainly questions about how the children got on the island, how the island takes care of the children, why just nine children, who sends and directs the boat, where the elders go when they leave the island.

One fascinating aspect of Orphan Island is the unknown Abigail. The children have no idea who Abigail is/was. But her books are on the island. Her notes are in the books. Some of the children feel like they *know* Abigail through the clues she's left behind. I would LOVE to know more about Abigail and the first generation of children who lived on the island.

I would recommend this one. But if you hate untidy endings that leave you wanting more, then maybe it's best to know that ahead of time. There will be questions you *need* answered. They won't be answered in the book. Perhaps they'll never be answered by the author. Perhaps you'll have to choose your own ending.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Alyssa Nelson 1:58 PM  

Sometimes open endings frustrate me, but there are times that I'm in the mood for them -- I think they're great for teaching and helping kids imagine their own stories and be creative with them. This book definitely sounds interesting. Great review!

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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

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