Great writing, so-so storytelling

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ellonkah Avatar


I’d like to thank Delacorte Press for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.

Raxter, a (formerly) posh New England boarding school for girls has been forsaken. Everyone started to get sick, and everyone who didn’t die remains very, very sick. The entire island upon which Raxter sits has been quarantined by the CDC. It’s been 18 months, but the Navy is still delivering food, medicine, and other supplies to the remaining girls on the island, about 60 of them.

The girls are hungry, cold, and deprived of just about every creature comfort you could think of. Hetty, Reese, and Byatt have formed a tough trio to keep each other going. The Tox, as they call the strange disease that has them stuck on the island, affects each in a different way. Hetty has gone blind in one eye, and has Byatt sew that eye shut occasionally, since it weeps and oozes. Reese’s hair has gone silver-white and emits a glow, and so has one of her hands, growing silvery skeletal scales. Byatt has grown a second backbone, on the outside of her skin, ridged up like a dinosaur’s.

The book is part coming-of-age, part stay-alive, and part The Village. I’ve seen some marketing comparing it to Lord of the Flies, but I don’t think that’s accurate. There is a group of girls, making do with what they have, but they do have leadership with Ms. Welch and their Headmistress. They form social groups and of course they fight, but it doesn’t really turn them against each other in the same ugly way as it did the boys in LotF.

The book was easy to read and the character development was absolutely stellar. The descriptive writing about the environment in particular was beyond amazing, there were times I could nearly feel the cold and the frost. I felt there were some pretty big holes that keep this book from being a 5-star read. They are listed below – beware of spoilers.


Some things that I didn’t quite get:

In the end we find out that the food Welch is throwing away has been dosed with test cures/drugs by the CDC. She has decided that she doesn’t want the girls to be test subjects, and Hetty states that “she was on our side.” I’m not tracking with this jump. Clearly the approach that was being taken didn’t work. What if eating the drugged food had helped? It seems that Welch made this decision unilaterally and was very likely wrong.

Welch also helps get the “test girls” to the research facility (Mona, Byatt, seven others). This also goes against her being against tests on the students.

Tracy quits boat shift to help Welch with the test subjects, and this is focused on heavily. Why? What does she gain from this duty? A promise that they’ll get off the island together? Which they apparently need Reese for? I’m not even clear on why Reese was the ticket off the island, which is why they saved her from the gas.

Byatt cuts the parasite out of her own arm and effectively cures herself from the Tox (with some definite residual effects). We’re led to believe that after nine subjects (10, with Teddy) in the research facility, the CDC doctors couldn’t identify that there was a WORM causing all of these issues? Seems like some pretty unskilled medicine. Whether they could cure it or not, they would have made that much progress, for sure.