The Other Side of the Island
by Allegra Goodman
Razorbill, 2008

This is Allegra Goodman's first Young Adult novel, a traditional future dystopia in the spirit of The Giver. It is an excellent example of the sub-genre, written at level that can be enjoyed by children who don't quite qualify as young adults yet, but with a quality that can be enjoyed by even old adults.

When Honor was ten years old, the Corporation took her and parents from the dying lands of the northern seas and resettled them on Island 365. They were newcomers, so they were given a dilapidated house uncomfortably close to the sea. Their belongings hadn't arrived yet, so they slept on the floor. And Honor's parents were not really up on current modes of thought, so despite being ten years old, she had not memorized the Corporate Creed or the Earth Mother's Five-Year Plan. Despite this she is allowed to attend the Old Colony School, where she quickly learns not to point at the guardians in the watchtowers, not to look at the Orderlies, and most certainly not to question her teachers.

As time goes on, Honor learns that it is very good to Fit In. She also learns that her parents don't fit in, and that they don't want to. They sing old songs, collect forbidden and forgotten items, and read the forbidden propaganda. They even go so far as to have a second child -- and decide to keep it. This isn't forbidden, because it doesn't need to be... at least not for normal families. But it does make her life more difficult, and means she has to work even harder to Fit In. But no matter how hard she tries, her parents seem more and more determined to Stick Out, even when their friends start to disappear.

As you have probably gathered, I quite like this book. It is clearly written for a younger audience, and would have sat firmly in the children's section just a few years ago. It is just a little out of place in the young adult section, and doesn't address any teenager-type themes other than wanting to fit in. It does have a compelling setting, with interesting characters, and it is quite enjoyable whatever your age -- but don't expect The Hunger Games.

As with so many children's books dealing with dystopias, its ending is its weakest part; not being a series, there's only so much the author can do to indicate a sweeping movement on the world stage. And, sadly, Goodman didn't do so great a job wrapping things up. This is one of those books that should have started a series, but it didn't. In my opinion, this is the only thing that will keep it from being a classic on par with The Giver.

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