February 16

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Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart – Review by Angie Moore

scar-islandI’ve never been an adventure story reader. Hatchet? White Fang? 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea? Nope. I have not read one of those. Which makes it really hard to recommend books for my students who love adventure stories. If I’ve read any, it was because of high recommendations from family, friends, students, and coworkers, or they were required reading. That changed when I picked up a copy of The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart about a year and a half ago. I loved it so much that I felt like I had to read anything he wrote. I was able to listen to the audiobook of his next book, Some Kind of Courage, this past spring and it had so much heart, just like The Honest Truth. These are the kinds of books I can honestly recommend to my adventure loving students!
I received a digital Advanced Reader Copy of Scar Island from NetGalley, but had an incredibly busy fall so was unable to read it right away. I was giddy about being able to relax over winter break with some new books. And when I received a ‘real’ copy of this book a few weeks ago, I was able to read it in just a day while we were traveling. There are bends and twists and surprises with every turn of the page!  “It’s no fun shivering when you’re wearing handcuffs. It doesn’t help to be seasick, either.”  From this first sentence of Dan Gemeinhart’s latest book, I was hooked! Where was the character going? What did he do? As I continued reading, I was immediately connected to and concerned about Jonathan, the main character, and what was going to happen to him while he was at Slabhenge Reformation School, a hundred year old, former insane asylum, built on an island in the middle of nowhere. There is something about the way Dan creates his characters that immediately sucks the reader in, and I love that! Jonathan struggles with his ‘crime’ and it takes him all the way until the end of the book to face it head on.
I also love that Dan added something familiar with a library, and some classic book titles. There is a scene where Jonathan begins reading and has to start over multiple times because others want to join, and listen too. This gave me a great reminder that while these boys were in a reform school and were considered criminals, they were also just boys, children, between the ages of 10-14. This pulled at my heart. It really helps to solidify the importance of reading aloud. This one simple act brought the boys together just as boys, and not as criminals.
As I was reading, I was reminded of the few adventure books I had read, specifically, Treasure Island, Holes and The Lord of the Flies, as well as movies like The Goonies. There is a mean, nasty warden (admiral), an uprising, a battle for leadership, major disasters, a rescue, and above all, a great ending.
Scar Island is an edge of your seat, don’t interrupt me until it’s done, adventurous, mysterious, heart racing book. It is a must read for those who love adventure books, or those who don’t and want an exciting one to start with. I think I’m ready to dig into this genre more! Thanks Dan for writing incredible books!
Angie Moore is living her dream as a Preschool – 4th grade librarian for two elementary schools in Lansing, Michigan. She has a husband & two boys who just get her nerdy book habits. You can find her drinking excessive amounts of coffee while reading or working on homework and also on Twitter connecting with fellow book nerds.