Thanks to NetGalley and Knopf Books for Young Readers for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: Available Now
Synopsis: Right before Sadie died, she begged her sister, Ruby, to do the one thing she could never do herself: Find the treasure on Gray Wolf Island.
With just a mysterious treasure map as a guide, Ruby reluctantly allows some friends with her on the hunt, each of whom is touched by magic: a boy allegedly born to a virgin, a girl who never sleeps, a boy who can forsee his own death, and a boy with deep ties to the island. Each of them is also keeping a secret—something they’ll have to reveal in order to reach the treasure.
As the secrets come to light, Ruby will have to decide: Can she make peace with her friends’ troubled pasts and continue to trust them? Can she forgive herself for doing the unspeakable? Deep in the wilderness of Gray Wolf Island, Ruby’s choices will determine if they make it out with the treasure—or merely with their lives.
Gray Wolf Island is the debut novel of Tracey Neithercott, and although it wasn’t quite what I expected, I still enjoyed it. One word of warning: There is a sexual assault (not rape) scene that’s briefly talked about. It takes place in the past and it’s not graphic, but it could be a trigger for some readers.
The story centers around the familiar trope of a group of misfits who are on a quest. This particular one is led by Ruby, who is still grieving the loss of her twin sister Sadie who died the previous year. Ruby was already more of an introvert than her vivacious twin, but there’s a secret that Ruby is hiding concerning Sadie’s death from cancer, that has made overdraw even more into herself. I have to admit I didn’t like Ruby at first. She’s very standoffish and cold in the beginning. But once she and the other teens arrive at the island, she slowly opens up more and I felt more connected.
The other characters are delightfully quirky, but they’re all hiding secrets as well, some darker than others. I thought they were all likable, but they seem immature for the sixteen-year-olds they’re supposed to be. There’s also a romance that develops between Ruby and Elliott, the so-called bad boy, that came off rather forced.
There were a few other issues that kept this from being a perfect read for me. First, the rather cavalier manner in which Ruby’s parents permitt her to go off on this excursion just wasn’t realistic, especially given that that they had lost their other daughter. The pacing was also a bit strange. There were some moments of excitement and action, but many others where the story was too wordy and dragged, and I found myself skimming. And the ending was much too rushed and abrupt for my taste.
Despite the problems I had with Gray Wolf Island, I still enjoyed it. It’s definitely more character-driven than plot-driven, so if you like that style of writing, coupled with a trace of magical realism, than I recommend you give this a try.
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