Author: Austin Aslan
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Series: Islands at the End of the World #1
Paperback, 384 pages
Publication: August 4, 2015 by Ember
Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.
Right before my eyes, my beautiful islands are changing forever. And so am I ...Dystopian novels have become a dime a dozen. The field is so saturated that it’s difficult to discern what’s or isn’t worth reading. However, The Islands at the End of the World is without a doubt in the former category, a book worth reading! There are so many great things that make this novel stick out from the rest of books in the same market. Unlike most dystopians, where it’s post-apocalyptic, we actually get to see things before and experience it alongside the characters as the world as we know it ends/changes. Secondly, The Island at the End of the World takes place in Hawaii! I think this is the first time I read a book where the location is set in Hawaii and the Hawaiians are the main characters/subject. And thirdly, this novel is all about family and I am such a sucker for anything family related.
Sixteen-year-old Leilani loves surfing and her home in Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii. But she's an outsider - half white, half Hawaiian, and an epileptic. While Lei and her father are on a visit to Oahu, a global disaster strikes. Technology and power fail, Hawaii is cut off from the world, and the islands revert to traditional ways of survival. As Lei and her dad embark on a nightmarish journey across islands to reach home and family, she learns that her epilepsy and her deep connection to Hawaii could be keys to ending the crisis before it becomes worse than anyone can imagine.
A powerful story enriched by fascinating elements of Hawaiian ecology, culture, and warfare, this captivating and dramatic debut from Austin Aslan is the first of two novels. The author has a master’s degree in tropical conservation biology from the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
Aslan did an incredible job with the world building. I loved all the picturesque details of Hawaii and can see it clearly in my mind as if I were there. I appreciated how he incorporated the use of the native language-lingo, and giving an in-depth look at the background and history of the residents, whether they’re natives, transplants or tourists trapped on the island. I really liked learning about the people, and was surprised to know that hapas, half Caucasian-half Hawaiians get just as much discrimination as any other nationality. Aslan also seamlessly blended Hawaiian myths/lore into the story and the characters, as readers get brief snippets on the different gods and well-known poems/sayings through the book.
The Islands at the End of the World focuses mostly on Leilani and her father Mike as they try to find their way home to Hilo from the island of Oahu. Leilani is pretty much your typical 16-year-old who wants what every girl wants…a normal life, except she’s an epileptic. But never once does she let it get the best of her. Leilani is a strong, independent heroine and is incredibly brave. She’s definitely someone who is beyond her years and always looks for the brighter side of things; I occasionally forget I’m reading about a teenager. Many dystopians are narrated by kick-butt heroine who are constantly fighting and trying to prove that they can do anything a man/boy can do. But Leilani never once came across like she had to prove herself to others…not even to herself. And I love that about her, she’s down-to-earth, realistic and relatable.
All in all, The Island at the End of the World was an outstanding debut novel by Aslan. I’m totally kicking myself for not picking this book up sooner! That revelation at the end about the emerald orchid was a big shocker; I didn’t expect the book to go down that route! If you’re looking for a fresh and unique dystopian, give The Island at the End of the World a try, this is a series you don't want to miss!