Publisher: Chicken House Books
Genre: Fantasy, MG, Adventure
Source: a copy in exchange for an honest review
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Ami lives with her mother on an island where the sea is as blue as the sky. It’s all she knows and loves, but the arrival of malicious government official Mr Zamora changes her world forever: her island is to be made into a colony for lepers. Taken from her mother and banished across the sea, Ami faces an uncertain future in an orphanage. There she meets a honey-eyed girl named for butterflies, and together they discover a secret that will lead her on an adventure home. Ami must go back to the island of no return, but will she make it in time?
The Island at the End of Everything is another stunning story by The Girl of Ink and Stars author, Kiran M. Hargrave. Almost exactly a year after The Girl of Ink and Stars was released, we are honoured with another middle grade adventure by the wonderful Hargrave, and this story is just as magical and lyrical as the first, if not more so.
The story follows Ami who lives with her mother on an island where those who are suffering from leprosy are sent. The island is home to families that are a mixture of members who suffer from the disease, and those who miraculously manage to stay unaffected. Ami herself does not have leprosy, which is why when a government official is sent to Culion to segregate those with the illness – who are Touched, as they are called in the story – from those without, she is sent to an orphanage to another island with the healthy children. This means this children are torn from the only home they’ve ever known, from their families and loved ones, and sent to an unfamiliar island where immediately they are marginalised for being from Culion.
This book touched on many sensitive topics, and I felt they were all dealt with considerately and realistically. Despite loving her mother, there were times when Ami felt embarrassed by her illness, which I think is a realistic human reaction especially for a child. Ami seems very mature; she assists her mother with day-to-day tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and dressing. And when she is forced to leave home, she worries about her mother continuously. It doesn’t help that Mr Zamora is a harsh and hard-headed man. However, he himself suffers in silence from a phobia of germs, and seeing some of the characters he treats like garbage respond by feeling sorry for him made me feel a certain way.
At the orphanage, Ami makes a new friend. A honey-eyed girl, who radiates joy and kindness even on the page. Born with a deformity herself, Mari feels like she understands Ami. It was wonderful seeing their friendship blossom in such a short time, and Mari is such a brave character. I think we’d all be better off with a friend like Mari fighting by our side. And let me not forget the cheeky little tag along to their adventure, Kidlat. God, he was adorable, I just wanted to hug him and wrap him up in a blanket and shield him from the world.
Somehow, I loved The Island at the End of Everything more than The Girl of Ink and Stars, and I wasn’t sure that would be possible. I read it in just over 24 hours, only taking breaks to sleep and work on my dissertation. This new release by Hargrave only cemented her as one of my new favourite authors. Her writing is spellbinding and beautiful, and her stories full of adventure, diversity and tear-jerking plots with lovable characters. I’m not ashamed to admit I cried at the end (and before the end).
Favourite quotes: That’s the problem with believing there’s a reason for everything – you have to take the good with the bad.