The Island by Sarah Singleton

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The Island by Sarah Singleton

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A gap year expedition goes horribly wrong in this intense and sophisticated novel. It's vivid and compelling and again, something new from this tremendously versatile author.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: April 2010
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1847382967

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Otto has arrived in Goa a couple of days ahead of Charlotte and Jen, his gap year companions. It's typical of Otto to steal what should be shared thunder. He's a lovely lad, but he's a tad selfish and he does like to be first for everything. Each of the three has a different reason for the trip: Otto wants to get some experience for a hoped-for career in photo-journalism; Charlie wants to volunteer and beef up her environmental credentials; Jen has dreamed of journeying to India for as long as she can remember.

While waiting for his friends, impulsive Otto hooks up with Maria, a beautiful girl to whom he's instantly attracted. They party. They kiss. They make a date. She stands him up. He goes looking for her. And he finds her too - dead on the beach, as blood seeps from a wound on her head. The police are called and Inspector Sharma seems to see Otto as his prime suspect...

I like Sarah Singleton. She writes highly original books and each one brings something different to the table. In The Poison Garden we got a wonderfully creepy supernatural mystery of Madeline L'Engle complexity. The Amethyst Child was a tense and menacing story of a girl drawn into a cult. Here, in The Island we have a compelling and intense whodunnit. The three main characters have very different motivations for coming to Goa on a gap year expedition, but they each have the introspection of adolescence, and perhaps it's this exploration of this time of discovery, change and vulnerability in a human life that connects all of Singleton's novels.

She's a sophisticated and sensuous writer and there are no concessions - if you want the best from The Island then you're going to have to concentrate. If you do, then you'll be rewarded with a genuinely satisfying mystery thriller with three utterly credible, imperfect central characters, and in which Goa, its landscapes, its dangers, and its joys rise vividly from the pages. You can almost feel the jungle's heat and the burning sand and the whole backdrop makes for an unnerving, completely absorbing read.


My thanks to the good people at Simon & Schuster for sending the book.

We also enjoyed Dark Storm by Sarah Singleton.

Escape by Kate Cann and In the Trees by Pauline Fisk are both very different gap-year novels, but they're both equally super.

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Buy The Island by Sarah Singleton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Island by Sarah Singleton at


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