Young Adult Reviews

Review: The Island by M.A. Bennett

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It was actually John Donne, not my Dad, who said:

‘No man is an island, entire of itself.’ 

I say:

If John Donne said that, then John Donne didn’t know about English schools.

(The Island by M.A. Bennett. P38.)




Only one thing matters at Osney School. Sport. New boy Link finds it impossible to settle in after he is ranked lowest in a school-wide challenge. A single aspect of the curriculum defines Link’s place in the school society. He is the bag-carrier. The butt of every joke. Not a single person dares to befriend him.

Link decides he is not going back to school. Then the plane crashes.

Link and six classmates are stranded on a remote island. Will their social roles remain fixed away from Osney?



The Breakfast Club meets Lord Of The Flies in this chilling and intelligent novel. Following on from STAGs was always going to be a challenge but MA Bennett has confirmed herself as a great storyteller. The Island is darker. Those are the last words I expected to say when STAGs was about teenagers chasing each-other as blood sports. However, in STAGs we followed the three good guys. The victims were blameless and heroic. The Island is more complex.

At school, Link is bullied, ostracised and shunned. His experience lasts for years and is traumatic. Does that make him a saint? Does it heck. This novel examines teenage psychology in more depth than any novel I have read. The high school experience of cliques and gangs defines us and destroys many people’s confidence. This is the overriding theme of the novel. To what extent does your place in one society define your character?

It is the sort of intelligent which raises goosebumps.

Aside from the iPhones, the other major difference between Lord Of The Flies and The Island is the presence of girls. MA Bennett gets right under the skin of patriarchal societies and attitudes, looking at how the behaviour of individual males has led to male-dominance.

MA Bennet examines her themes in depth and is the master of character-creation. She is one of the most exciting new voices in YA fiction and I look forward to seeing what she writes next.


Thank you to ReadersFirst and Hot Key Books for my copy of The Island. Opinions my own.


Uncategorized · Young Middle Grade

Blog Tour: The Secret Deep by Lindsay Galvin

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Poppy seems to be accepting this place more, but I keep thinking about the man, Doctor Jonathan, and the argument between him and Iona. I’m beginning to feel like we are in a giant containment pen, like a safari-park enclosure.

(The Secret Deep by Lindsay Galvin. P34.)



After their mother dies, Aster and her little sister Poppy are sent to live with Aunt Iona. They are excpecting a house but Aunt Iona lives in an eco-village where she studies healthy lifestyles. Aster keeps noticing strange things about the eco-village. There’s the forced injections for one thing, and the argument between Aunt Iona and the other doctor. Then Aster wakes up on a tropical island with no idea how she got there. Poppy has disappeared.

Where is she? Where are all the teenagers from the eco-village, and most importantly of all, where is Poppy? The more Aster searches for Poppy, the more strange things she finds. There is a secret deep in the water. A secret with the potential to change medical history.bird


An underwater thriller and a fantastic adventure. From the creeping sense that something isn’t right in the eco-village to the show-stopping underwater scenes, everything about this book is designed to keep you reading.

Here’s a secret – I thought I didn’t like thrillers. I loved this book. Maybe I don’t like thriller clichés. Car chases and eccentric billionaires and ‘broken’ protagonists. This book is original, its characters are rounded and the villains are the heroes of their own story. You could almost sympathise with the main villain, and that’s what makes this so good. It is a Frankenstein story about the darkest human experiences and how far we should reasonably go to change the inevitable. It is about science and ethics and the lengths we would go to save people we love.

Aster’s grief feels real. She deflects all conversation about her mother but sees likenesses to Mum everywhere. This isn’t a melodramatic grief. It is silent and all-encompassing. Aster also suffers from anxiety, and it is wonderful to see a protagonist with mental health issues who is able to live with their condition. This story isn’t about treating the anxiety. It is something Aster lives with and manages while she continues her life. Top marks for representation. It is so important for people to understand that mental health conditions can – when they are manageable – be part of everyday life.

There is another great character in the story. Sam’s Grandad has cancer and the experimental trial which was working wonders has been cancelled. If you find it difficult to empathise with Iona, you will certainly feel for Sam. He would go to any lengths to save his Grandad, even if it meant endangering other people. Sam’s story gives us a deeper emotional link to the main themes. It is easier to imagine ourselves in Sam’s shoes than Iona’s.

The other thing I love about this book is the setting. The coral reef and white sands. Lindsay Galvin clearly has an interest in science. We learn about bioluminescent creatures and edible plants and preserving resources. This is a deeply intelligent setting with the potential to interest its readers in biology and geography.

A brilliant and beautiful story whose themes are deeper for their subtlety. I would love to read more about Sam and Aster, and their fascinating discovery.


THE SECRET DEEP is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House)

Connect with Lindsay on Twitter: @lindsaygalvin
Huge thanks to Chicken House Books and Laura Smythe PR for my copy of The Secret Deep. Opinions my own.