I loved Dan Gemeinhart’s first book, The Honest Truth. It was heartbreaking but such a great story. I was curious to read his new book, Scar Island (which came in the Scholastic Standing Orders). Wow, this book is amazing! I’ve just finished it (thankfully my toddler had a long nap today!) and it kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time.
The story focuses on Jonathan who has committed a terrible crime that he doesn’t speak about. He has been sent to Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys, a crumbling island fortress that was once an insane asylum. Jonathan is here with 15 other boys who have created various crimes and we meet them through the course of the story. The place is cold and wet and the boys get treated horribly, until something happens to the adults, leaving them to fend for themselves. There are no rules – they can eat what they like, sleep where they like and do whatever they want. However one of them decides that he is in charge and things start to get out of control. When a huge storm heads for the island their world starts to crumble and the only way they can survive is if they work together.
Scar Island is like Holes and Lord of the Flies rolled in to one. It is one of those books you just don’t want to put down. When you’re not reading it you’re wondering what will happen next. It’s an adventure story and a survival story with a dash of darkness. It’s an immersive story too because you can feel and smell the damp, cold fortress, hear the click of the rats scurrying paws and feel the fear and dread of these boys who are trapped.
Dan keeps you guessing the whole way through. Although most of the boys explain why they are at Slabhenge Jonathan keeps dodging the question. Dan drip feeds you details but doesn’t reveal everything until near the end. You have to keep reading to find out if everyone survives until the end of the story.
Scar Island is sure to be the perfect book to hook reluctant readers and it would make a great read aloud for Years 7 and 8.