Ruby’s sister had one dying wish: that Ruby explore the infamous Gray Wolf Island and find its legendary treasure. But when you take from Gray Wolf Island, the island demands something in return. Along with an eclectic group of friends —each with a mysterious past — Ruby sets off on a dangerous journey. Together, the group must face their own demons and give their secrets to the island in order to reach their goal.
For fans of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer comes a compelling thriller with shades of magical realism, romance, and the ultimate test of friendship.
“The complex characters are perfectly matched to the moving, magical, mysterious plot. Combine this with hypnotically beautiful prose, and you have a perfect novel.” —April Genevieve Tucholke, author of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea and Wink Poppy Midnight
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One Year Later
Everybody has a theory about Gray Wolf Island. Doris Lansing has five.
“Pirates’ gold.” She touches one finger to another. “King John’s missing crown jewels. The Holy Grail. The Ark of the Covenant. Or the Fountain of Youth.”
We’re sucking down milk shakes beneath the lone oak tree outside the Oceanview Nursing Center, her in a wheelchair and me on a stone bench that cools the backs of my thighs. I tie my hair into a high ponytail so the meager breeze can dry the sweat on my neck.
Across the lawn, the bluff drops to a pebbled beach, then miles and miles of ocean. Somewhere too far to see from here but close enough to call our own are Gray Wolf Island and a deep, deep, deep hole.
“Sheriff March thinks it holds the key to all knowledge,” I say.
“Ha! That’s a myth if I’ve ever heard one.”
They are all myths. It’s the lie I tell myself daily because that’s what I do now. I lie.
I tell myself there is no such thing as buried treasure. That the source of Wildewell’s endless frustration is one very famous sinkhole. That I haven’t screwed up my sister’s dying wish by being too weak with grief to chase a legend.
Doris’s fingers tighten around my wrist. “Are you seeing this, Ruby?”
I lift my sunglasses and blink back the bright. The ocean is almost silver in the summer light, as if the sun has leached color from the sea. A bony finger pushes my cheek, and my head jerks to the left.
“What a babe.” Her eyes follow Gabriel Nash in all his crisp-polo glory as he pushes the giant Oceanview lawn mower with an almost innocent unawareness that other people might struggle with the same task only to come away sweaty, wrinkled, and covered in grass clippings. “I always trust a man in a pair of pressed slacks.” She slurps her milk shake, then shoots me a serious look. “I bet he’s a very tidy kisser.”
“Doris!” I should mention that Doris Lansing is one hundred and four years old, and she’s only that young because she started counting backward once she hit a hundred and six.
“Not for me.” She shakes her head. “Nope, not for me.”
It’s been this way with her since I first started volunteering at the nursing home, one month after Sadie died. I push the wheelchair around the grounds, she scouts for potential relationships. Once, in a fit of exasperation after I told her I didn’t want a boyfriend, she told me I could have a quick fling so long as I kept my pants on.
“Which of those boys is he?” She doesn’t say it the way most adults do when talking about Gabriel Nash, Elliot Thorne, and Charles Kim, like they’re talking about wild boars or ferocious wolves. She says it the way most girls my age do when talking about the trio, like the boys have been dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with gold.
“His mother’s the Virgin Mary.” It isn’t her real name, of course. That’s Cecile Nash--three syllables too ordinary for the virgin who gave birth.
My grandpa Sal used to say that simply being near Gabe invited evil into your life. There are stories--this is Wildewell, after all. Some say Gabe brushed against them in a crowded store and, out of their fear of the damned, their shoulders dislocated. Others say Gabe shook their hands and, after they’d come into contact with such evil, burns sprang to life on their palms. And if it wasn’t exactly true before, it was once they spoke the words.
But there are also those people who believe Gabe is holy. An angel maybe, because who else but God could make a virgin pregnant? Constance Loyal, whose knees have cracked with arthritis for longer than Gabe has been alive, said she found relief after Gabe shook her hand at church. She was seated at the time, so Mr. Garza, who had burns on his palm from where Gabe had shaken his hand at church just last week, cried foul. But Mrs. Loyal just stood without a creak and danced a small jig.
Across the lawn, Gabe whips off his polo and tucks it into his back pocket. Doris sucks in a breath. “I hope the sprinklers come on.”
She shoots me a look that says she’s lovingly infuriated with me. “It’s okay to joke now and then.”
“Fine. Yes, Gabe Nash is an exquisite lawn ornament.” But I’m not looking at Gabe. I’m staring at the silver sea. And like I do every time I see the ocean, I think of Gray Wolf Island and buried treasure and a promise I can’t keep.
I park Doris’s wheelchair at the far end of the library, where a wall of windows overlooks the garden. It’s overrun by butterfly bushes, azaleas, hyssop, monkshood, and dogwood trees that spill petals across the lawn. A layer of dirt left over from this week’s landscaping coats the outer glass, so the light streaming into the room has a hazy, lazy quality.
“I can’t just fall asleep, Ruby. It doesn’t work like that,” she says, rolling her eyes. I want to tell her that that is exactly how it works, but we’ve been over this before. And besides, she thinks I only fall asleep so easily because I’m depressed, which I’m not. Not really. Mostly I can’t think of anything else to do with my time. And in sleep I can forget what I did.
I don’t tell Doris that, though. I don’t tell anyone.
“Read me something good.” A mischievous smile and a wink tell me exactly what kind of book she has in mind, but narrating sex scenes to an old woman is about as enjoyable as cleaning bedpans. Unfortunately, I have firsthand knowledge of both.
“I’ll read you something academic. That ought to put you right to sleep.”
“You know what you need, Ruby?”
“A paying job?”
“An adventure.” Doris squints me so hard I’m afraid she’s stuck that way.
Then I remember the way she looked at Gabe Nash earlier, like she might gift-wrap him and give him to me with a bow. “I’m not really the adventuring type.”
“Oh, fine.” She shakes her head. I get the feeling I’ve disappointed her, but I’m used to it. I disappoint myself on a daily basis. “At least pick one about indigenous peoples. Ours is a history you kids ought to learn.”
There is no shortage of historical texts on these shelves. In its past life, this building dealt in the rare and exceptional, and the research within these walls was the first step to discovery. Its former owner, renowned American antiquities dealer Bishop Rollins, was a true believer, and the town’s most prominent one at that. Like so many before him, he was drawn to quiet Wildewell by the tempting tale of Gray Wolf Island. He wasn’t the first to commission a dig, but he was the only one who stuck around after the money ran out and the treasure, if there is a treasure at all, stayed buried.
My fingers trace worn spines as I walk the perimeter of the room. Paperback romance novels and used sudoku books, which the library has collected in the five years since Rollins’s death, squeeze beside books older than my grandparents, giving the wall the appearance of a grin with too many teeth.
In the far corner of the library, towering mahogany shelves hold dense reads with thick spines. I suck in a deep breath, savoring the musty, dusty scent that seems to float like motes in the air. “Smells like knowledge,” Sadie used to say when she brought worn books home from the library in her never-ending quest to discover the secrets of Gray Wolf Island. I hated the smell until she was gone. Now I love it.
I walk with my head tipped sideways until my gaze falls on a shelf labeled native studies. It’s packed with cracked spines, monstrous things that promise dry sentences and tedious facts and a nap for a very old woman. I tug Twelve Thousand Years: Native Americans in Maine from its tight slot between two equally formidable books, both of which crash to the floor as Twelve Thousand Years thuds into my chest. I fumble for the fallen books, but before I slide them onto the shelf, I notice a thin paperback hidden at the back.
As I look at the flapping flag on the book’s cover--black as sin and adorned with a skull and crossbones--I know with an odd certainty that it was left for me: a gaping grin of bones meant to mock the standstill I’ve been in since the day Sadie died.
But no, it’s more than that. It’s adrenaline in my veins. Anticipation in my chest. It’s the sense of something more that makes my skin buzz and my arm hairs stand.
I snatch the book from the shelf and walk away.
Doris is asleep by the time I return, white hair fluttering in the breeze from the air conditioner. I tug her blanket to her neck, fingers brushing papery skin, then settle onto a couch so stiff it has to be expensive.
The slim book sits on my lap like an anchor. Holding me here, to this spot in Bishop Rollins’s house, to this moment that feels like more than it is.
I fan the pages, skimming the chapter titles and not thinking about the story or even the treasure. My mind is on Sadie and the day she stole lip gloss from the pharmacy. The way she flipped the pages of her book--fast, fast, faster--until she couldn’t keep the secret any longer.
My mind is on Sadie’s red fingernails the day the butterfly died. The way she let the polish smear against a stark white page because she’d been inexplicably bitten by the poetry bug.
My mind is on Sadie when I discover the treasure map.
The first clue is inked in the empty space after the book’s final words--a square with a slash through its center. Slanted writing begins after the symbol and runs onto the next page. I read and reread and reread, not quite believing that the scribbled poem is a map to the treasure. Sadie’s treasure. I close my eyes. Take a deep breath. Then I read it again.
Many will try,
will seek, will fail
to discover a treasure
and pull back the veil.
To throw out the false
and welcome the true,
Only one will triumph.
And that could be you.
Your adventure begins
with stars trapped in a sign.
Navigate with them and
our paths will align.
Discover the spot where
morning sun scorches sand
and the ocean beats its anger
into the land.
Head west, dear friend,
if you want to have fun.
Too far to the south,
and your quest is done.
Go down to go up,
pay no heed to the dead.
If you’re on the right track,
you’ll see gray wolves ahead.
Find heaven on earth--
a sign you will see.
Then let go the lie
and set the truth free.
Into the depths
is your eventual demise.
Part the water instead
for the ultimate prize.
Night descends quickly and
dark is made near.
It cloaks you in shadows,
but strangle your fear.
And in the black
you’ll find the star
to guide your way,
to take you far.
Take caution, dear friend.
Do not be misled.
If trickle turns torrent,
you’ll soon end up dead.
When narrow opens
up to wide,
take a deep breath
and step inside.
Look for the place
where stone stabs at sky
and the earth sings a mourning song
for your echo to reply.
Search for the six,
sturdy, solid, and true.
For centuries they’ve been waiting,
waiting for you.
Hidden stays hidden
until the ray
that guides your gaze
does a secret betray.
Only the worthy
can see the clue
to the greater treasure:
to know what is true.
I leave you now
With an immense quest.
Your strength, your intellect,
your honor it will test.
But if you are brave
and if you are wise,
if you’re determined,
you--only you--will find my prize.
My body vibrates, each part of me moving at a different frequency so the whole feels disjointed and dizzy. How is it that Bishop Rollins never found this? A treasure map. In Treasure Island. A heavy laugh escapes my lips, and I clap a hand over my mouth so I don’t wake Doris.
It has never been my adventure, this Gray Wolf Island business. That was all Sadie, and I was just along for the ride. When she died, it never felt right, me continuing on without her. But now I feel a wave of pure want for an adventure.
So I steal the book.
Poppy March looks like she’s seen a ghost. Blond hair swishes in the wind, but when I step onto the sidewalk, the strands sort of freeze in midair. All of Poppy freezes, really, except for her thin lips, which puff out a breath too soft to hear. Doesn’t matter. I can see what she says as if she’d shouted it. Sadie?
“I’m sorry, no.”
She blinks once. Twice. She shakes her head and slaps on a smile. “Oh . . .”
“Right, Ruby. I’m sorry--” She waves her hand around, like she’s trying to erase the past minute. “I forgot.”
People have a tendency to do that, forget me. Ronnie Lansing, the degenerate Sadie dated for half of freshman year, went a good two months before realizing I wasn’t just Sadie’s ghost going about like death never happened. It’s understandable, really. Without Sadie, there’s not much of me to remember.
Besides, this is Sadie’s turf. She spent countless hours locked in the back room of the Wildewell Historical Society and Museum, trying to piece together the mystery of Gray Wolf Island. I’d assume I was her if I hadn’t--
I’d assume I was her if she hadn’t died.
“She asked you to find the treasure,” Poppy says. At my shocked expression, a bittersweet smile crosses her face. “About a month before she died, she told me you’d be coming here for information about the treasure and that I should help you. When you didn’t show up, I figured she never . . . well, that she never got the chance to ask.”
I stare at the sidewalk. A crack splits the concrete, and in that space a yellow dandelion pokes through the earth. I used to think that kind of thing was beautiful, but really it’s just a weed. “I should have come sooner,” I say.
Poppy’s face softens. “Don’t be so hard on yourself--you’d just lost your sister.”
For one sinful moment I drink up her sympathy, but then I remember. I didn’t lose anything. I took something.
Excerpted from "Gray Wolf Island"
Copyright © 2017 Tracey Neithercott.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Children's Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have to be honest, when I first started this, I didn’t expect much more than a 3-star book. But WOW was I wrong! Gray Wolf Island absolutely blew me away with its mysterious setting, lovable characters, and suspenseful treasure hunting. Probably the aspect of this book that made me fall completely head-over-heels in love, but I actually expected the least from, is the characters. This book definitely features an amazing group of friends. With a boy that can foresee his own death, a girl that never sleeps, a talented teenage cook born to a supposedly virgin mother, a nerdy bad-boy that loves to spout linguistic facts, and a main character hiding a dark secret, things are never boring. Their interactions are hilarious and utterly seamless, I could’ve read about their trip to the grocery store just as easily as their treasure hunt. Each one is individually developed and fleshed out, none of them fit into a certain YA character stereotype. The setting is just as captivating, though I have to admit I was creeped-out at times! The island itself is mystical and entrancing, the lush surroundings are described beautifully. But if I were in this story, I think I would’ve avoided the island just like all the towns people! I never trusted that the characters would be safe, I was kept unnerved and on the edge of my seat, waiting for disaster to strike. I think that feeling added a ton to my reading experience, and the author does an amazing job of maintaining those vibes throughout the book. I really enjoyed all the folklore and hints at Native American culture as well, though I can’t speak for the quality of the native rep. Thanks to this book, I need more treasure-hunt books in my life now! Like, REALLY need them! I was instantly intrigued by the poem “map” that the characters must use to find the treasure, and solve each riddle as they go. At times, however, I felt like the characters are able to solve things a little too easily. The ideas seem to pop in their heads about exactly what the poem means and where they need to go, so I was a bit skeptical. But overall, the mystery is still tons of fun. And the plot twists people, THE PLOT TWISTS! I have to say, I’m usually pretty good at predicting what’s going to happen next, but this book had me fooled till the last page. There are two reveals in particular that still have me reeling. Yet another thing that I did not expect but completely adored: the romance. In case you haven’t read some of my other reviews, I’m a tough crowd when it comes to romance. It has to be done very well for me to enjoy it, but I can confidently say this book had me swooning. I didn’t know that nerdy bad-boys exist, but if anyone would like to find me one, I would highly appreciate it. Elliott Thorne has officially been added to my (very short) book boyfriend list and I *may* be a tad in love. The romance is well-balanced with the overall plot, and definitely added to the book as a whole. In addition to the main story line, Gray Wolf Island features an alternate perspective that intertwines with Ruby’s adventure. I really loved how the author managed to bring each plot together at the end, and create eerie parallels between the two for the reader to pick up on. It brought an extra layer of mystery and suspense that made this book hard to put down. My biggest issue with this book is that there’s not a sequel! I fell completely in love with these characters and now I want to read so much more about them!
With its atmospheric setting, dynamic cast of characters, and wonderful spirit of adventure, GRAY WOLF ISLAND is one 2017 debut novel that is simply not to be missed. This book takes readers on a quest to uncover a hidden treasure, and the journey there brims with action, danger, and high-stakes mystery that will keep readers glued to the pages. This book had me absolutely hooked from the very first chapter, and I only became only more captivated by it as the story progressed. The catalyst that sends Ruby on this adventure was heart-wrenching yet believable and really sets the tone well for the rest of the novel. And while there are some moments were the plot moves a little more slowly, overall the balance between the high action and world/character development is well executed and creates a highly addictive story. The cast of characters is wonderfully crafted. They all had such distinct and fascinating personalities, and they were truly a pleasure to read about. The dialogue throughout this book is so well done and really serves to breathe life into these incredible characters. Their banter was witty and added a wonderful bit of levity to an otherwise very intense story. I love when the setting of a book truly feels like a character in and of itself, and Neithercott has certainly achieved that in GRAY WOLF ISLAND. This book is deliciously atmospheric with incredible attention to detail. The island itself is lush and fascinating, yet at the same time, it has this dark and threatening presence that is always lurking on the edges of the reader's consciousness. The romance in this story is also very well done. It manages to be swoony and heart-pounding without overpowering the other elements of the plot. Elliott Thorne is sure to be a favorite amongst readers. Neithercott also did a fantastic job of weaving the POVs together in a way that added to the suspense and mystery of the story. 2017 has been a year of incredible debut novels, and this is certainly one of the best that I've read so far. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, and I'll be eagerly waiting to see what Neithercott has in store for us next!
The very first thing I heard about this book was that it gave off a Raven Boys vibe. All it took was those three words, and I was IMMEDIATELY sold on Tracey Neithercott’s upcoming debut novel, Gray Wolf Island. A bunch of slightly mystical teenagers on a quest to find treasure coupled with that spooky book cover and for fans of The Raven Boys? I NEEDED TO READ THIS BOOK. I got through the entirety of this 330-ish paged book in a little less than a day and I can honestly say that while Gray Wolf Island isn’t the BEST book I’ve read in 2017, it comes pretty close. There were a few drawbacks, however, so let’s go more into detail: THINGS I LOVED: 1. THE CHARACTERS: What’s a story without good characters, really? It took me all of three chapters to get used to Ruby, Anne, Gabe, Elliot and Charlie and slip into their mystical world, and within the next five I felt like I knew them as well as I knew anyone I’ve known for years. I loved the playfulness, the banter and the camaraderie between all five treasure hunters. I LOVED that Elliot was a know it all and I ADORED the chemistry between Ruby and Elliot. Tracey Neithercott’s characters were some of the best characters I’ve read in terms of the way they jumped out of the page and connected with me and I can’t wait for more from her. 2. ALL THINGS TREASURE RELATED: This isn’t much of a spoiler since you find it in Chapter two or Three but Ruby finds a treasure map in the back of Treasure Island which coincidentally is one of my favourite treasure hunting books of ALL TIME. I read it back when I was eleven and I’ve loved it since. This only boosted the fact for me that this book was ALL ABOUT HUNTING FOR TREASURE. The clues, the riddles, the mistakes, the suspense was all really well done and I loved it. THINGS THAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: 1. THE MYSTICISM: For all its talk of a mystical island that housed an unimaginable treasure and characters with such mystical backgrounds (A boy born to a virgin and a boy who has seen visions of his own death?!) I DIDN’T REALLY FEEL THE MYSTICISM? I loved the concept, and the book had me believing it too, but for some reason, the mysticism like I felt with The Raven Boys or even Spellbook Of The Lost And Found just didn’t hit me and I SO WISH IT HAD. 2. THE ENDING: I honestly believe that endings should be the best part of a book. Even though my heart breaks, cliff-hanger endings are GOOD endings to books. Closed endings are the good but the ones with a little grief and a lot of happiness are the BEST. I feel like after doing everything so BRILLIANTLY the ending to Gray Wolf Island was very rushed, and I didn’t like it. The big reveal in the end wasn’t properly explained and I WISH IT WAS. Maybe even a few more pages and I could have gotten that ending I so desperately need. At the end of the day, if you’re a fan of magical realism, treasure hunting and BRILLIANT sassy, know it all characters with gorgeous backstories, Gray Wolf Island should be on your TBR piles!
The Goonies meets The Raven Boys This book is beautifully written and even haunting at times. The characters are richly developed each with their own secret and tie to the island to which they go to hunt the treasure. The story and the writing are both magical. Though the cover suggests an action/adventure story, this novel is so much more. It’s about friendship and truth, trust and mystery. Highly recommend.
Special thanks to Random House Children’s Books for the ARC. Wow. Just¬— WOW. This book hit me with so many feels, in so many places, and the end! Oh my, that ending was beautiful and heart wrenching and magical. Shall we begin? The basics: Character, Plot, and Craft. Well, Tracey knows how to craft characters. Can I just end there? What she does is magical, how each character is independent but also form this group that steals your heart. The core characters are Ruby, Charlie, Elliot, Gabe, and Anne. And there’s another perspective that I won’t be sharing because this is an adventure, I’m just leaving you clue. First, Ruby overwhelmingly reminded me of myself, and maybe that’s why I had an instant connection to this book. I’m avoiding a spoiler delicately by saying I’m not ALL Ruby— because her secret, oh my. But how Ruby would rather disappear, how everyone else takes center stage… it was like seeing myself. It’s not how I like to see myself, but it’s a part I’m working on. Anyways, the nuance in her character is fantastic. Elliot… well he easily became a favorite. A ridiculous and wonderful favorite. The entire gang is full of delicately subtle characters who make you laugh, make you cry, who will warm your heart while making you cringe. Tracey creates this group in bold strokes and small hidden details. While you unravel your assumptions about these characters, you begin to see them for who they are, and what’s more is you understand how those assumptions are shaped by others perception. TREASURE MAP! Gray Wolf Island is a different sort of treasure hunt, but I’ll leave that for you to decide. The intricate puzzle pieces that make up the plot are masterful. Everyone has secrets, but what if there was a place that draws out the truth? Make your guesses at the beginning, and watch as the story begins to unwind, how the twists tangle you deeper into the mystery of Gray Wolf Island. As someone who normally isn’t shocked or surprised when the “Big Reveal” takes place, I was shock at the ending. But not in the way I expected. The ending. It’s one of the biggest arrows that stabbed through me and left a hole. I mean this is the best way. As in it made me think, made me consider the story, the “moral” (if you want to call it that) or theme presented— and then I started crying. BECAUSE IT’S SO DARN BEAUTIFUL! *gosh I’m tearing up writing this. It’s a rare book that makes me cry, and Gray Wolf Island is something I never expected to hit me so hard. But it did. Crafty she be… If this is Tracey Neithercott’s debut, then I CANNOT WAIT to see what she does next. Like I said in my previous reviews— easy reading does not mean poor writing, in fact, it means the opposite. The craftsmanship in Gray Wolf Island is on point. From characters, to plot, to the subtle ways this story works around your heart Tracey does a phenomenal job. There are many, many layers to Gray Wolf Island and each of them offers something different. The second perspective though… I won’t spoil things but it threw me through a loop and then some. And not until the very end did I figure out the mystery of the island. Gray Wolf Island has mystery, but also a morality to it that swirls and eddies like the mist surrounding the island (or the gorgeous cover), and for me, that was the magic— that was the treasure.