Monday, March 16, 2015

Review: Nil by Lynne Matson

Nil by Lynne Matson
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co (BYR)
Release Date: March 4th, 2014
Source: Borrowed ARC from a friend
On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have 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 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 she has to find a way to beat the clock, and quickly.
I was disappointed by this book, but that doesn't mean it was bad either. I was just expecting a lot more from it than I got out of it. The concept remains the strongest part of the story, weaving its way into the plot in numerous interesting ways.  Perhaps what made the book suffer the most was the romance and the huge focus on the romance over many other aspects of the novel. It kind of overwhelms everything, including the idea of trying to find a way to survive. I've never been stuck on a freaky island before, but I would imagine I would be freaking out about just trying to get by from day to day. But again, the plot was fairly interesting, and there was a mystery that kept me going.

So I'm not completely sure where I stand on the diversity front with this book. On the one hand, I don't want it to be me wanting every author to offer every kind of diversity, but I also want to see that kind of general diversity. Nil is great with representing different cultures and races/ethnicities. There's a great diverse cast in that sense, and there's a pretty even ratio between males and females. However, the two main characters are still white and there's still a mostly white feel. I think it stems from the fact that despite the differing backgrounds, it didn't feel like everyone was of a different background. It seemed as if their different experiences weren't actually all that different. Perhaps it was because we saw them in snippets at a time, but alas.

In addition, perhaps because of the nature of the premise of the story, I was expecting to see more struggles with island living beyond the crazy island, as in I was expecting a larger basic survival story. I wondered about how someone with asthma or diabetes or allergies to something on the island would have fared and how they would have acted. In this case, I believe it's hard not to wonder that at some point. The thing is, again, how can the author incorporate everything without it being overwhelming or without everyone representing a different portion of the population. But I feel that even something as simple as having asthma would have been found on the island. We understand that Nil doesn't discriminate, but in many ways, it seems as if it does.

But as I briefly mentioned before, Nil does a great job with its female characters. The book felt balanced, and all of the characters, including/especially the girls are complex and individually written. They are strong, weak, independent, dependent, strong-willed, scared, each dealing with her own issues. The males are similarly written. It's so nice to see that in this book, and it makes me feel as if Matson was just scratching the surface of what she could have accomplished. I look forward to reading more of her books, with the hope that she'll continue to grow in her writing and continue to dig deeper into what she began to dig into in her debut.

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