Source: David Fickling Books
Grade: 3.5 stars out of 5
There's only one way out of the mainland and that's to X Isle.Originally published in the UK, X Isle has crossed the small pond and into the hands of US readers. (However, the novel is still quite in its original format so there is still British slang and humor as well as single quotation marks rather than double.) Told in third-person limited narrative, X Isle tells of a dystopic world where the modern world has transcended backwards to the days without the Internet or electricity at that.
A flood overtook the world, killing both Baz's mother and sister, and billions of others in the world. It left towns, cities, and humans submerged underwater cutting the remaining few left alive with basic of basics. Now with just his father, Baz struggles to get by each day where everything has become scarce and pasta has become the newest form of currency. But the stench of the surrounding death and the harsh environment of thievery is too much to take care not only yourself, but a child at that. Now families send their sons to X Isle, a shortened name from Eck Island, where it is promised to a land of sanctuary compared to the mainland. The only way to get to X Isle is by boat when the crew stops every so often to trade goods.
The boys need to be small and thin and most barter for their voyage for the crew only picks up one, but usually none. They barter with rare items: fresh meat, cartridges, cornflakes, chocolate. The crew this time has asked to allot two boys for this trip to X Isle. The chosen two: Baz and Ray.
Now Baz takes this trip where he hopes will give him a brighter future. That is, before he dies. X Isle is not the land of the promising as Baz slowly realizes when the group of young boys on X Isle show him the ropes and the truth.
Despites its rather large font, X Isle reads like a typical 500 paged novel: long. X Isle focuses mainly on character development and the rules, environment, and daily life of the island. The action, such as human sacrifice, and the giant shocker occurs at the end of the novel so hopes and attention spans do not fear.
The novel is read more in paragraphs rather than dialogues so it quickly becomes mind-numbing. The descriptions go in-depth and while boring may be a strong word to used, the heat wave combined with the words had me struggling to pay closer attention. However, this could easy be a factor because this not my type of novel. X Isle, to me I quickly realized, seemed to be a possible candidate of what I should read for middle grade.
X Isle uses symbolism and motifs/themes quite frequently. The flood, Preacher John, the goat, the two rabbits, the school of mackerels, the fishing spool, and of course the nicknames are all things that can be dissected and scrutinized for their hidden meanings. The characters as well can be torn apart by the teachers and asked to be described by the students in essay form (with proper citation).
But what makes X Isle worth-while and most fascinating to me is the brutality of the "villains". It is the cold heartless actions that I found gripping and the companionship of friends fighting for survival endearing.
Despite my feelings during the reading process, I am left away with a grand sense of satisfaction. X Isle is a hefty read that is suited more to the MG readers interested in Lord of the Flies, The Maze Runner, Holes (ironic in comparison with X Isle isn't it).
You can order X-Isle now.
P.S. Does anyone else love the title? X Isle ... Exile. This is definitely making my list of favorite titles.