Available March 4th
Source: ARC from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have one year. 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 lying 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 to save their future, Charley must first save him. And on an island rife with dangers, their greatest threat is time.
Nil is a beautiful blend of elements, seamlessly weaving together adventure, romance and a little science fiction to keep the wheels in our minds constantly turning as we attempt to solve the many riddles the island has to offer. Ms. Matson keeps us on our toes throughout, the number of days Thad has left before his year runs out a pressure on our chests that grows more intense by the chapter, his impending doom making us twitch nervously with every flip of the page because we know it's bringing us one step closer to his end. As we struggle with the possibility of losing Thad when he hits day 365, we also take on an almost hyper-vigilance when we're with Charley, frantically trying to use her eyes to find the answers Nil seems intent on keeping from all of us, adrenaline pumping as we're constantly on the lookout for any clues that will see all Nil's inhabitants home safe and sound.
We spend our time evenly split between the perspectives of both Charley and Thad, the combination of island newcomer with island veteran a fascinating mix that allows us to approach the mysteries of Nil from a number of different angles rather than just one. As a result, we're able to see the island for the contrast it is: exquisite and cruel, safe and treacherous, and life and death; its secrets holding us transfixed as we wonder how everything for Charley, Thad and the rest of the young survivors will play out. This is a story where every page taunts us, daring us to flip ahead and learn the things we most want to know before we're meant to know them, and as the body count rises and the romance between Charley and Thad deepens, the harder that taunt becomes to resist.
Charley is an easily likable young woman, someone who takes her arrival on Nil in stride even when its dark side is fully revealed, jumping into the day to day life with both feet as she attempts to find her place amidst those who have been there far longer. She's a team player from the beginning, as is nearly everyone on the island, the sense of camaraderie between all of them both joyful and painful to see given the death sentence they all live with each and every day. Where Charley is all shiny newness, able to find some beauty in the island, Thad is more gritty realism, his time on Nil having taken its toll and robbed him of some of his hope. He's not overly negative by any means, but for him Nil is a sentient being–a prodigy in a game of survival being played unrelentingly, and one who has the decks stacked in her favor. Charley and Thad prove to fit together perfectly though, both opening the other's eyes to a way of seeing that increases their chances of making it home, partners in the truest sense of the word who we're rooting for with every fiber of our being.
The romance is prominent enough to make sure our hearts are in danger of breaking should things for either Charley or Thad not work out as we're desperately hoping they will, but the adventure and mystery aspect is the primary focus and the piece of this story that keeps us up late even though we know we'll pay for it the morning. The fact that the island of Nil remains as much a mystery at the end as it did at the beginning is both disappointing and not, our curiosity of course demanding answers for the how's and why's of everything we've seen, but in the back of our minds we know that any attempt at an actual explanation for Nil would have dulled this book's shine. Part of the appeal of the story is in the questions we're left with, ones that let us fill in the blanks as we see fit so that we become active participants rather than mere observers, and we can't help but find some satisfaction in the imagining.
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review.
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.