I received this book for free from Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Nil by Lynne Matson
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on March 4th 2014
Genres: Sci-Fi, YA
Source: Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
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On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have one year. Exactly 365 days--to escape, or you die.
Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing she remembers is blacking out, and when she wakes up, she’s lying naked in an empty rock field.
Lost and alone, Charley finds no sign of other people until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought . . . and so is falling in love. With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that to save their future, Charley must first save him. And on an island rife with dangers, their greatest threat is time.
Survivor meets Lost (pre epic fail) in this exciting survivalist story set on a bizarre island filled with monstrous beasts and only one way out, and if you miss your chance to leave, you die. Imagine walking to the store when this heat wave comes, and suddenly you find yourself naked and having to rough it out in this unnatural wild with countless death traps and no supplies or food other than what you can find on the island. Luckily, Charley found others in the same predicament. I found it rather ingenious, the way these kids built a kind of society where everyone does what they can, pulling their own weight to survive this alternate dimension of sorts they were all unfortunate to land into. As a result, the book has a large cast of characters that we meet throughout. Some you get to know more than others. Some you’ll like, others you’ll hate. Don’t get too attached, however; deaths are frequent, and often unexpected.
Mostly, we focus on our two main characters. Told in dual POV, we’ve got Charley who’s tougher than she thought and able to take what’s thrown at her. She’s also very intelligent and starts to study the island; what it all means, patterns, clues, etc. This is what I enjoyed the most – I craved answers! Then we’ve got Thad, a leader with a lot of anger towards this Nil island. I liked both characters well enough, but they still could have used some more characterization. I didn’t get to know them well enough to be fully invested. The two POVs were also very much alike. Their voices almost identical. And an annoyance for me was Thad’s Canadian stereotype. While we do say it occasionally, we don’t actually finish every other sentence with “eh”. That on top of him mentioning Canadian only stores and the fact that he loves hockey and has an affinity for snow was a bit overkill. (And he had to explain that SportChek – which was misspelled – was a Canadian sporting goods store because it’s not obvious enough). Anyways, in the end this was easy enough to ignore and did wane off in the second half, thankfully.
The major disappointment in this novel was the romance. Charley and Thad meet each other on Charley’s 12th day, and as soon as they do it’s all about how hot he is, how perfect her legs are… On her 13th day she was already going on about how she “couldn’t imagine Nil without Thad”. On her 26th day Thad knew he loved her. On her 33rd day (remember they met on day 12!) they declared love to each other and knew they were meant-to-be. Bleh. What could have been a fantastic survivalist story with awesome twists and clever discoveries was crushed by love and romance and how-will-I-go-on-without-yous. I get what the author was going for, though. This doomed-from-the-star tragic love story was a good angle, but it lacked the foundation that it needed to put readers in the right emotional state.
Nevertheless, the mystery of the island kept me fully captivated. It had me theorizing until the end, wondering what misfortune would be brought upon them next, but also curious about the mechanics of this island and its meaning – though I can’t say I was altogether satisfied with the answers or lack thereof. The final part was the most exciting and incredibly adrenaline filled; running for the gate on Thad’s final chances of survival. I was quite surprised by the turn this took (I also thought this was the first in a series), but I was equally unsurprised by the happily ever after ending.
While it may be leaning on the lower end of a 3-star rating, it’s not a bad book and I did find it was entertaining throughout most of it. It just could have been so much more! It had incredible potential that got consumed by this epic insta-love romance that, regrettably, lacked the emotional impact this story was clearly going for.
3 Hot Espressos