Title: ORPHAN ISLAND
Author: Laurel Snyder
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
From acclaimed author Laurel Snyder comes a deep, compelling, heartbreaking, and completely one-of-a-kind novel about nine children who live on a mysterious island.
On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them—and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again.
Today’s Changing is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny’s best friend, Deen, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility now—to teach Ess everything she needs to know about the island, to keep things as they’ve always been. But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will come back—and take her away forever from the only home she’s known?
So, I pretty much knew I’d love this book before I read it … and I was right. Which isn’t always the case, sometimes the high expectations can kill something. But, I’m a pretty good gauge now of whether or not I’ll like something having been a reader for so long. And this book appealed to me on so many levels, I just had to read it.
From the beginning, it was everything I wanted it to be. I was transplanted to a magical place and got to live in someone else’s head for a bit. But, it also felt familiar.
It brought back memories of me reading THE GIVER for the first time and learning things new for the first time through Jonah and applying this knowledge to my life. I’m far older now than I was when I was reading Lois Lowry for the first time, but this book made me feel like I wasn’t.
I wanted to know things about the island: why they were there? Who created it? How does the magic work? What is going on? But I knew that it would burst my enchanted bubble if I got those answers, so I enjoyed swimming around in the world Laurel Snyder created and just let myself experience it.
And it was lovely. Jinny and her cohorts on the island were perfectly imperfect. Jinny especially loved so deeply and also had a selfish streak a million miles long. This is the part that reminded me of myself now. As a mother. I love my Cares, I want to teach them things, I want to protect them. Sometimes I need a little alone time. Most of the time I don’t do things exactly right or how my mother before me did. Someday, instead of me getting my turn to leave the island, they’re going to leave. And this will break me. But there is always another day. There is always new choices.
I think this book will be magical for middle grade readers. I think they will see themselves in it the way I did, in their past, present and future.
This quote is on Snyder’s website:
“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.”
This beautifully captures the spirit of this book, and also what draws me to Snyder’s other books and writing in general.
The ending. I will not talk about the ending aside from saying I LOVED it. It made me sigh in happiness. I love Jinny and her optimism. Sometimes things only feel like an ending, but there’s always more.
When you’ve read the whole book, go HERE to see what Laurel Snyder has to say about her ending and what people think of it. I didn’t need this to change my mind about anything, but it rooted me more firmly in my convictions.
This was a quick, easy read and maybe that was because I didn’t want to put it down. I loved the mystery of it, the way the characters were evolving, and I wanted to see just what Snyder would reveal.
She says there may be a prequel in the works someday and that is something I will definitely watch and wait for.