“X-Isle” – Steve Augarde

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Today modeled in the shower because that's as near to possible flooding as I could get. Not to worry through, the book isn't so much about the flood, and it does contain a lot of bathrooms. Also, I look 'shocked' because I am scared of the aforementioned possible flooding.

The floods have come. Some are lucky to be alive. Though they might not count themselves lucky. In the aftermath of a global devastation, those left barely survive, living in fear and near starvation. They have lost everything, including their future.

But there is one way out: a boat to X Isle.

And Baz is about to take it.

A dystopia premise I haven’t seen tackled in YA fiction before, but I think the blurb is a little misleading. A drowned world is an intriguing notion, but the plot-line could have worked just as well under a number of other circumstances; the flooded environment didn’t feel integral to what was happening, but it made for an interesting angle.

The fact the author has chosen to set his story in the not-to-distant future, where we still eat Cornflakes and ride bikes to school, is a clever and engaging tactic, which makes both characters and their struggles easy to relate to. There are some areas of the storyline that are ridiculous, if unique, that drive the tension down, and most of the big-reveals are ¬†predictable, but somehow this doesn’t distract from the seriousness of the overall themes. I wish we could have seen more ‘mainland’ life before reaching the island. We’re told constantly that it’s worse to be there than at the hill-top building, but never get much of a contrast.

The protagonists are likable. I feel in love with the group of X-Ilse boys, banding together against come-what-may, and acting as boys their age would act even these particular difficult situations. This group of varied young-men are captivating , and will keep you reading. However, the villains weren’t developed well enough for me. They seemed to be ‘inherently evil’ most of the time, with no real motivation between their unsavory actions other than just because they could.

There are some powerful themes woven together in this work, with impressive poignancy. Survival plays an obvious key role throughout, reinforced by death and many cases of dog-eat-dog choices. Baz himself confronts several issues regarding kill-or-be-killed, bringing about thought-provoking ideas about childhood. Perhaps most notable is the constant terror of religious control, something I found highly relevant to the current political struggles facing the world.

X-Ilse is haunting in its premise, and distinctly dark in style, and is a unique addition to the YA dystopia shelf.

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