What It Is About: Jonathan is a 12-year old boy who has committed a crime and is being sent to Slabhenge Reformatory School. This school, "prison", is located out in the middle of a body of water and was formally an asylum for the criminally insane. As Jonathan makes his way in a boat out to the island, the two crew members warn him about the place he is about to spend the next several months of his life. When Jonathan arrives on the island he is introduced to the "Admiral" who runs the school. Jonathan realizes quite quickly that is school is more of a prison than anything else. The adults are big and scary. The halls are dark and scary. The atmosphere is intimidating and full of "residents" that don't want to be there. After an accident involving the guards, the group of boys are left on their own. Their first thought is to get off the island, but after some discussion, and force, they decide to spend a bit of time on their own on this island full of mystery and horror. Jonathan tries to make the best of this situation while remaining "friends" with all the other guys. He also finds some mysterious spaces and other "residents" that bring a lot of drama and life alternating events.
What I Thought Of It: Let's just say I received this ARC in the mail today, sat down on my deck with it, and finished it within a couple of hours. Once I started I could not put it down. Of Dan's three novels, this one is quite the page-turner. From the moment Jonathan is on the boat to the island until the very last page, the story is full of action, mystery, and suspense. The story line was so interesting and different from anything else I have read. I have never read Lord of the Flies before, but there was a reference to that novel during the story and I think there may be some similarities to the two plots. As a reader, I can always count on Dan to introduce a strong male character that has challenges and struggles to overcome. He hit it out of the park with Jonathan and I found myself "rooting" for him the whole reading experience. Everything about this story was top-notch and I know will be hours of enjoyment to so many readers!
Who Should Read It: I'm hoping to use this book for a future "Breakfast with Books" book club after its release in January. I know my fourth grade readers will totally get into this story. Readers that have read either of Dan's first two novels, will definitely want to read this third one. It is just as good if not even better. The book would make for a strong read aloud in grades four, five, and six. It would also be a great fit for a strong independent reader in third grade, or readers in fourth through sixth grade. I'm so excited to introduce this novel to my students. I just wish I didn't have to wait until January. Happy Reading!
Rating: 5+ STARS out of 5 Stars