Nil by Lynne Matson
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
What I Liked:
I was super excited for this book for many long months, so you can imagine my excitement when I LOVED it! It's one of the best feelings, when you wait for a book for like, FOREVER, and then read it, and love it! And it's even better when the author is totally cool and you secretly pray and hope that you love his/her book, so you can fangirl about the book (as opposed to disliking his/her and not being able to fangirl over the book).
One second Charley is in Georgia. The next second, she isnt. She wakes up (naked) on the island of Nil. For twelve days, she is alone, and then she meets two boys - Thad, and Jason. Thad and Jason take her to the City, where there is a group of teenagers living, hunting... surviving. To get off the island, each teenager must go the way they came - through a shimmering gate. But the gates don't seem to have a schedule to them, and come unexpectedly. And no one stays more than a year - if they do (without catching a gate), they die.
One thing that immediately jumped out at me is that I really liked Charley. She is not weak or stupid, two traits that I'm sick of seeing in YA literature (not ALL YA books, obviously. In fact, most do not feature such a heroine). She is actually pretty strong, both mentally and physically. She's an athlete (that's something we don't see often), and she's TALL (also something we don't see in YA books). She doesn't go completely insane in love with Thad, nor does she act like a complete nutcase on the island. I really like Charley, and I feel like she and I would actually be very good friends, if she were a real person. Both of us are resilient, mentally strong, physically strong, compassionate, passionate, and intellectually intelligent (analytic, almost).
I also really like Thad. He is an amazing leader - as he should be, as he has been on the island for a very long time (nearly the longest - when Charley arrived on Nil, he wasn't too far away from a year). He's kind and thoughtful, yet uncertain and human, as we see more when he is around Charley than not. I loved the thread of indecision that plagued him throughout the book, whether it was his number of days left, or Ramia's warning, or the threat of danger and rogues. And I'm not going to lie - he sounds HOT. That definitely does not hurt!
The plot of this book really had me interested and invested. I wanted to peek at the ending of the book SO MANY TIMES, to know how it ended, but I did NOT do it (yay!). I read through the entire book in one sitting, and it took everything I had not to read the end. But I'm glad I didn't. The ending is really great. But the plot of the book would lead you to believe that the ending could not happen. The plot was very complex and intricate. We weren't just concerned with finding gates - there were rogues and crazy beasts and patterns and island life. Crazy stuff!
Matson keeps things interesting by layering the plots, as I alluded to above. This book is all about survival. Charley, Thad, and the others in the City work together to Search for gates for those with Priority (those who are closest to being on Nil for a year). It's curious how this works, as there the conflict of stealing someone else's gate when you don't have priority is addressed. I must say, this book does have some creepy scenes, with skulls and feelings of being watched and sleepless nights. So freaky and weird and great!
This book is like a contemporary version of Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I read that book a few years ago, and enjoyed it. This book is also like the TV show "Survivor". I bet people are going to be all like, ooo, this book wasn't original, it was a ripoff of Lord of the Flies and "Survivor"! Well, I don't think so. The basic idea of being forced to survive on an island is constant, yes, but no one knows how or why the teenagers are chosen to be on Nil. It's mysterious...
This book is told in the perspectives of Charley and Thad, alternating between the two, in first-person point-of-view for both. I really like this - it's a great way to connect with two different characters, and see things from the perspectives of two different characters. Also, we get to see Charley and Thad's feelings for each other slowly develop and change, and that's cool.
This book is set up so that each chapter counts the amount of days that either Charley or Thad (depending on whose point-of-view we're reading). This is really cool, but it's also handy because Matson skips days (or weeks) at a time. It speeds things up, right until the climax - which is Thad's "expiration date" (when he reaches 365 days on Nil). I like this, and it didn't seem like Matson rushed things at all. The pacing of the book was excellent, even with Matson skipping days at a time.
The ending. The ending is really great, in my opinion. I'm going to talk about it a little in the next section, but I'm mostly satisfied. DO NOT PEEK. Whatever you do, read the entire book, cover to cover. Do NOT look at the end before reading the rest of the book. You will not want to read the rest of the book. Just read the entire book.
What I Did Not Like:
The only things I really had trouble with was several areas of plausibility. YES, this is fiction. YES, I could just use my imagination and let the story be. But I found loopholes. Like, why exactly were the teenagers on the island? Who chose them? Where did the island come from? Who made the rules? What happened when the teenagers died? Why teenagers?
You can't just give the answer of "No one knows", every single time. Many of these questions are raised in the book (Charley asks Thad or others), but I feel like none of them are actually answered. There is a theory tossed around, about parallel worlds or universes or alternate realities or basically holes in time and space, which makes sense (and I would totally roll with any of those), but none of them are solidly accepted as the explanation.
Like, I wanna know. Don't leave me hanging! If this book were part of a series, even a companion series, then I would totally NOT question these things! Or, I would question them, but in my head. I wouldn't see them as "negative" aspects of the book, because I would hope that they would be explained in the future books of the series.
But ending this book with no key explanations? Don't do that! I need to know!
Would I Recommend It:
Despite whatever I just typed in the "What I Did Not Like" section, I definitely think you should make this novel one that you'll read in 2014 (or in the future). I think science fiction fans will like this one (though they might question EVERYTHING, like me), and definitely romance fans and contemporary and thrillers fans will enjoy this book. It's really great! It pulls in a lot of cool aspects, and while I wasn't completely satisfied with the lack of explanations, it has a riveting plot and superb ending.
4 stars. What a fantastic debut! I'll definitely be looking out for more novels by Lynne Matson.
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