Three years ago, life changed for homeschooled American Link Selkirk - he started school for the first time. Not just any school, but a posh private school in the heart of Oxford. Unusually for a school associated with a university like Oxford, Osney prizes sports and games over academic ability - so much so that students' status in school is determined by how quickly they can run around the school's square. The fastest students are 'Ones', the slowest are 'Elevens'. Link does so badly that he becomes a 'Twelve' - a magnet for bullies.
After three years of misery at Osney, Link decides to quit school after his GCSEs - if he could just convince his parents. They eventually agree, but only if he spends the summer on the school's overseas camp. On the way, their small plane goes down on a desert island, and seven Osney students find themselves stranded and alone. Link - who has grown up reading desert island 'Robinsonade' adventure stories - sets about establishing a new pecking order, and plots revenge on his tormentors...
I enjoyed M.A. Bennett's STAGS last year, and The Island has similar preoccupations. Both books feature scholarship students coming into posh private schools, facing institutionalised bullying by privileged rich kids. The Island, however, flips this to ask what could happen when the meek inherit the earth.
The writing in The Island was easy to read and engaging, although I found it a much harder book to like than STAGS, primarily because the protagonist was deeply unpleasant for much of it. While the author makes it clear that this was a deliberate decision, it didn't make for an enjoyable read.
The mystery element of the plot was well done, although the resolution was ridiculous and over-the-top. This is definitely NOT a realistic, contemporary YA story!
Overall, The Island was an easy-to-read thriller let down by an over-the-top ending and an unlikeable protagonist.