Series: Nil, Book 1
Author: Lynne Matson
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. BYR
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance Suspense
Content Rating: Older Teen (some strong language, tense situations, minor gore, violence, animal attack)
Format Read: Hardcover (library)
Find It On: 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.
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In a Sentence: A tense and romantic adventure about teens trapped on a mysterious island that I quite enjoyed and look forward to the sequel.
For a story about a bunch of teens suck on an island with nothing to do but survive, surf, and try to find a way off, this was a surprisingly engaging read. It's told in alternating chapters from Charley and Thad's First Person point of views, which worked well at first but I did eventually get them mixed up a little (thank goodness for Thad's occasional Canadian accent). Charley was strong and smart but struggled to find her place on the island. When she did though, it was something different but nothing anyone else couldn't have done as well (no special snowflake here), which was refreshing and made her relatable. Thad was strong and sweet and maybe a little too "girl's fantasy of the perfect boy" at times but he was a good clan leader and a responsible romantic interest. The romance went down love-at-first-sight fast, but they were sweet together and it was a "live every moment like your last" situation so I let the instalove slide. I really liked that the island (Nil) was more character than setting - when setting plays such an important part in the story, writers are advised to make the setting its own character, and here it was literal. Many of the teens considered Nil a scheming, sadistic entity - Thad even "talked" with her a little - and it added a nice menacing vibe.
With such a relatively simple plot, the book was a little long for me and eventually dragged a bit. It was more breathtaking scenery description than anything, and while it was easy to picture, as part of the 1% who aren't particularly fond of island paradises so much beautiful scenery got old fast. The mystery was interesting though, and although it wasn't solved by the end, the conclusion, especially for the characters, was satisfying. This is a series with at least one other book (Nil Unlocked) so the mystery may yet be solved, but the sequel will be more of a companion novel and focus on different characters.
Rating Content: There was a surprising lack of sex in this book (welcome, but surprising). I mean c'mon, strand a bunch of teens on an island together unsupervised and there's no way their hormones wouldn't get the better of them. Charley and Thad did discuss it eventually, but he (yes, the boy) said no because they didn't have protection. I'm not complaining mind you, but it was a tad unrealistic. As for language, there were a lot of f-bombs for a few chapters (thank you, Rory), but elsewise the swearing wasn't too bad.
Conclusion: While it could've been a little shorter for me, I quite enjoyed the mystery of the island and the romance was sweet. Will definitely be reading the sequel, Nil Unlocked.
For Fans Of: Survivor