- Hardcover: 480 pages
- Publisher: David Fickling Books (1 October 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385610610
- ISBN-13: 978-0385610612
- Product Dimensions: 14.4 x 4.2 x 21.4 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 599 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
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X-Isle Hardcover – 1 Oct 2009
From the Inside Flap
In the fight for survival, anything goes.
The floods have come. Some are lucky to be alive. Though they might not count themselves lucky. In the aftermath of global devastation those left barely survive, living in chaos and fear, and near starvation. They have lost everything, including their future.
But there is one way out: a boat to X Isle.
And Baz is about to take it.
A hard-hitting novel set in a world where there are no boundaries, and normality is just a word.
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Baz is living on the mainland, which has been ravaged by the floods. Food is scarce, living conditions are terrifying, and the one ray of hope for a young boy such as himself is X-isle. The island used to be a school for girls that has become a home base for the Eck brothers and their father, Preacher John(Eck Island...X-isle...). They use their diving equipment to salvage for canned food and supplies that they trade with people on the mainland. When they visit the mainland, they sometimes take young boys (no girls) to help work on the island. While no one really knows what goes on at X-isle, they are certain it has to be better than the mainland and therefore try everything to get the Eck brothers to take their sons to the safety of the island.
When Baz gets to the island with the other boy accepted that day, Ray, they realize the island is certainly no oasis. The boys are put to hard labor, tortured by the two older capos, and terrified of Preacher John and the Eck brothers. Despite the grueling living conditions, though, they still have to admit it is better than the mainland. They might only get one can of food a day, but at least they are sure they will get a meal every day, unlike the mainland. But the boys are starting to suspect the brothers don't bring the boys back to the mainland once they get too big (and therefore pose a possible threat to the brothers). When the cook is deemed "too big" and gets sent back to the mainland, it becomes obvious he was left at sea since the brothers went diving instead of trading. Then the boys decide they must devise a plan to save themselves or face the fate of countless other boys in the polluted waters off the island. With the help of Gene, the very smart mechanic boy, they devise a way to build a bomb with the only fuel they possess- farts! Now they have to find a way to complete their plan before it is too late...
If you have read quite a few dystopias or post-apocalyptic stories and are looking for another, this is a good choice, but I wouldn't give it to someone who hasn't yet been sold on the sub-genre. It is a decent story with interesting characters, but it isn't the best YA dystopia out there. The story has a tendency to drag in a few places and lost me at times. I would have appreciated a little less of the middle 250 pages where the boys settle into life on the island and more of the aftermath of their bomb. It was a very long book for how little actual action existed in the whole story.
The reading level is fairly low- probably best for grades 7-10, but the author and setting are British. This leads to some language and slang that may be confusing for a younger, less sophisticated reader. I would suggest this story for either an adult interested in YA dystopias or a student who has read a significant amount within this sub-genre. While the story wasn't the best dystopia I have read this summer, it does provide a world of topics for discussion. What will happen when the delicate environment finally lashes out at us? Which is worse, starving on the mainland or working to death (quite literally) on the island? How do people react in dire circumstances? It even discusses the difference between murder and self-defense at great lengths. This book is an avenue for many great discussions!
Quick & Dirty: When it comes to survival, ethics become questionable, and everything comes at a price. Compassion and camaraderie are the only things that give these boys a chance to endure. X-Isle will make you cringe, warm your heart at times while making it race at others, and ultimately leave you to think about what, or really who, is worth surviving for.
Opening Sentence: The steady chug of the diesel engine drew closer, and eventually the salvage boat emerged from the mist, a blank grey shape steering a middle course between the ghostly lines of chimney stacks that rose from the water.
As the main character, everything is told from Baz’s point-of-view. This is important because there are a lot of characters but most of the book is about Baz just plain figuring things out. Some of his observations seem to come about much too slowly, and you end up really having to consider his life and what he’s been told his whole life. Much of this does not have to be explained in detail, which is something I really liked about the book. Since the world got flooded and there’s really not much left, a large part of his and the other X-Isle inhabitants’ lives have been spend simply surviving. Everyone has lost everything and they are just clinging to every little shred of hope that they can, including their belief in the X-Isle and what it means. Because why else would people send their barely teen boys over to an island run by a few old men, unless they were totally and completely desperate?
Baz’s father seems to have done his best to shelter his son in any way possible. This makes it much more difficult for Baz in the long run, when he has to take care of himself. He is simply naïve, which not only makes it really hard for him to understand the crazy animalistic world of survival that surrounds him, but goes beyond that to curse him with an immense sense of guilt at every turn as he tries to follow his father’s last advice to him, “You just worry about yourself, son, that’s all. Look out for number one.”
Ray, on the other hand, is the opposite of naïve. One of the first things he says to Baz is, “Try using your loaf instead of asking dumb questions.” It is no surprise that Ray comes up with most of the plans to overcome their plight; he simply has the most to lose from it all. Several times Baz considers returning to the mainland, and Ray doesn’t even consider it, instead doing his best to look at the specific problem and come up with a solution. It is nice to see how the boys are able to give up their competitiveness at points in the book and when we see compassion take over. And that it comes from inside of them and not from the creepy sermons given by Preacher John.
The main thing that I enjoyed about this book is that the villains in this book are quite believable. Maybe because of the survival atmosphere of the book, maybe from just reading the newspaper lately, these guys are simply in it for themselves, the ultimate opportunists. They are just sinister enough, and I like that. The pacing in this book was also pretty good. It was a little long, but right when you start to think about how many pages are left is when you start to not care how many are left because you get so wrapped up in the plot. There was one part where I was practically holding my breath for a couple chapters. It definitely gets pretty good, and that’s where we really can appreciate only seeing through Baz’s mind, cause he can’t quite catch up to how fast things are moving, try as he might.
The ending to this book was a little problematic for me. After living in a world of survival for so long, it seems that those instincts would stay with the boys at least a little longer. The author tries to touch on that, but doesn’t make it quite convincing enough. Also, the main reason the boys even go to X-Isle is because of their families. There isn’t reference to the families they left behind at the end of the book, which seems somewhat unnatural to me. I would recommend this book more for an adult audience than a teen audience. There is actually less mature material than I was expecting, I was expecting it to be a lot more vulgar than it turned out to be, and I appreciated that, but there is some violent themes throughout the book that may not be appropriate for a less mature audience.
Baz remembered his own desperate tactics to get food the previous evening. ‘Well…I suppose you sort of have to be, don’t you? Out for yourself, I mean?’
Amit stopped what he was doing. ‘Well, that’s pretty good, coming from a newbie. No, actually, you don’t. You try and look out for your mates, is what you do – that’s if you want any mates. Like we tried to look out for you this morning, yeah? Tried to make it so’s you didn’t have carry any of the really heavy stuff.’ Amit stared at him for a moment longer, then returned his attention to the workbench.
‘And that was after what you did last night,’ he muttered. ‘To Enoch. And to Taps. Don’t think we didn’t notice.’
FTC Advisory: David Fickling Books provided me with a copy of X-Isle. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.