This is my first Clarissa Johal novel. I don’t think it will be my last, but I’m probably not moving her to my “must read” list of authors either. Don’t get me wrong. She’s a good writer and for the most part, I enjoyed The Island. But (there’s almost always a “but” after a compliment, right?) I had some issues with the characters and the pacing.
Emma was a likeable protagonist but for a smart, independent woman, she seemed to have an utter lack of common sense. Almost from the moment she lands on her grandmother’s small remote island, she has encounters that range from somewhat odd to downright frightening. And yet, she casually brushes all of them aside by either ignoring them or telling herself she’s being silly. I can believe some people wouldn’t be bothered by a handful of odd occurrences but Emma ran into some situations that were genuinely scary and she seemed to take them in stride.
I spend a fair amount of time reading paranormal fiction so I’m naturally inclined to accept supernatural events but I don’t expect the characters in the story to be casual about it. Truthfully, if I ever had an actual paranormal experience, I’d most likely freak the fuck out. I think most people would, which is why Emma’s reaction doesn’t ring true.
I also had trouble with the odd pacing/flow. For the first half, the story moves fairly slow as Emma goes about the mundane tasks of cleaning out her grandmother’s cabin and deals with her best friend Paisley and Paisley’s over-the-top douchebag boyfriend, Derek. When Paisley and Derek abruptly leave, the weirdness and danger ramp up to a ten almost immediately with a lot of weird and disorienting events.
After Emma barely escapes the island, the story slows back down as she and Nathaniel—the fisherman who saved her who just happens to look like a GQ model—attempt to solve the mystery of the island while flirting like a couple of lovesick teenagers. Because, who doesn’t get a little turned on after surviving a life and death struggle with a pair of supernatural demons, right?
Unfortunately, I also found the two demon characters to be extremely odd as well. They pop up out of nowhere more than halfway through the book with very little explanation. Even the minor amount of foreshadowing didn’t really serve to set up their sudden appearance. It was just a series of odd events followed by two strange dudes literally showing up on Emma’s doorstep.
All that said, I found myself liking the book overall. Even though I found Emma’s behaviour to be unrealistic, she comes across as a genuinely authentic and decent person. Like most of us, she has self doubts and flaws but that makes her all the more relatable. The odd assortment of people in her life only adds to her authenticity.
If you’re a fan of paranormal fiction and don’t mind a bit of odd pacing, you could do a lot worse than The Island.
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