2 out of 4 stars
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Two teenagers and best of friends, Matthew and Ryan, are stranded on the shores of an island with no supplies of food and water. They wake up to have no memory of themselves except their names and the fact they are comrades in their endeavor of escaping from the island. Fearing death from thirst and starvation, they move about the island in search of food supplements, only to find a creepy jungle on one side, and a boat with a rope leading to the shore on the other. The boys, having failed to try to call for help from the shore, planned on exploring the boat in hopes of finding a radio or communication equipment to contact the outside world for help. Will they be able to escape the island? Or are they subjected to a massive game with no hope of escape?
Island Games: Mystery of the Four Quadrants by Caleb J. Boyer is a young adult novel featuring volcanoes, wild beasts, and booby-trapped temples. The story is a cross between the game, Temple Run, and the movie, Maze Runner; I chose runners because, most of the time, the boys were made to hurry from one quadrant (a section of the island) to another, fearing imminent death.
The novel emphasizes the key aspects of friendship and teamwork. There were several instances where the boys could have died, had they not looked after each other’s backs. I enjoyed the rapport between Matthew and Ryan, throwing in some humor and sarcasm at every dark turn. For instance, an enormous beast almost devours Ryan, who later claims that it looked like Matthew’s girlfriend. This friendly banter was something to look forward to while reading. As a fan of thrillers myself, the beginning of the novel was promising and had built a lot of intrigue in me. I enjoyed watching the friendship growing stronger between the boys as they faced dire situations together, one after the other.
However, I do have some criticisms. The plot was not very well developed; the boys didn’t have any motive to move from quadrant to quadrant other than gaining food and water. Most of the time, I found myself stuck in certain scenes, not able to picture the entire scene around the protagonists; the author, for his age, showed quite some potential, but the descriptive nature of the novel was weak. The style of writing in the novel made certain scenes look repetitive and, towards the end, made situations predictable. I also didn’t like how certain scenes lacked intuition from the boys, and how they could quickly switch between informal banter to formal survival-talk. There was a paucity of character development as well, but I cannot blame the author for that because the characters are still teenagers and can’t be expected to act like adults.
The author requires praise for having written a novel at such a young age. Having undergone a family tragedy and being on the move for most of his young life, the story reflects the virtues of trust and love. Caleb is trying to draw an analogy between life and the games on the island. The difficulties one faces in life are very similar to the challenges Matthew and Ryan had to overcome to remain alive. The author shows potential and has the innate ability to write engaging novels. I wish him the very best in his future endeavors.
Considering the aforementioned points, I would rate the book two out of four stars. The book is professionally edited; I could find only a single typo. It was a pleasant read with a clear theme. There are no profane, gore, or erotic scenes in the book. There is a fair quantity of non-graphic violence, mostly depicting the fights between the boys and the beasts of the island. The intended demographic is children and pre-teens as the book can act as an elementary read for budding thriller-enthusiasts. If you worry about cliffhangers, please wait till the second book of the Island Games Series is out as you might not be happy with the ending.
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