Goodman, the author of several acclaimed adult novels and a National Book Award finalist, does a stellar job with this, her first book for young readers. The story's dystopia is at once original and frighteningly familiar to anyone conversant in Orwellian doublespeak. And Honor is an appealingly conflicted heroine, torn between her need for acceptance and a growing realization that the price for conformity is not just her own memories, but the lives of those she loves most. The Other Side of the Island is dark but shot with sly humor, and the narrative grows increasingly satisfying as Earth Mother's web of conspiracies and denial unravels. Goodman has written a bracing, exhilarating novel that manages to be both subversive and optimistic.
The Washington Post
Allegra Goodman develops her world with deft strokes, bringing together the linguistic traditions of the dystopian novel with those of classic post-disaster stories like Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker or Walter M. Miller Jr.'s Canticle for Leibowitz, in which language is used to demonstrate catastrophic change.
The New York Times
From Kaaterskill Falls to Intuition, Goodman's fiction proves that she can tackle big subjects with unobtrusively graceful and perceptive prose. Her first YA offering, a dystopian eco-fantasy in which a malevolent Corporation lulls North America's few remaining inhabitants into complacency with memory-altering substances, misinformation, fake skies and a leader named Earth Mother, is a top-notch genre piece-but not her most robust storytelling. Honor is 10 when she and her parents are forcibly brought back from the supposedly uninhabitable North to Island 365; in one of the few but clever twists on convention, it is Honor's parents who actively rebel, and Honor who embraces Earth Mother's laws, at least at first. When her parents are inevitably caught, it falls (predictably) to Honor and another child to rescue them; this plot line depends on coincidence and inconsistencies, but dramatic pacing and otherwise shrewd psychological insight help camouflage these flaws. A subtle frame places an omniscient narrator in an even more distant future; in slyly casting a retrospective eye on her story, the author opens the apparent outcome to the reader's questioning, and this may be the most innovative aspect of her novel. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
. . . the book is at its best when it's inside Honor's head, as she struggles to balance her parents' unorthodoxy with her craving to belong . . . will keep readers engaged.
Gripping, beautifully written . . . evokes Lois Lowry's The Giver. Goodman does a stellar job. A bracing, exhilarating novel . . . Big Brother better watch out.
Fans of dystopic and speculative fiction will want to check this out-there's certainly much material for discussion and debate.
Honor's family has come to the Island during the time of the Enclosure, when the Earth Mother and her Corporation have finally begun the glorious work of mastering the weather. But Honor's family does not always act the way everyone else does, which can be dangerous in a world where the Acceptable live safe lives and the Unacceptable disappear. Goodman, a National Book Award Finalist, pens a dystopian tale for her first young adult novel, and although she does not break a lot of new ground, she succeeds in crafting a fast-paced and exciting read. The unique element is that she chooses rabid environmentalism for her society's cause, showing the most drastic reaction to the melting of the polar ice caps. Smoothly incorporating details of today's society, and resisting the urge to set her story too far in the future ensures that her story will be believable. Unfortunately this work suffers from being slightly too similar to books such as Lois Lowry's The Giver (Houghton, 1993/VOYA August 1993), a common problem with dystopian fiction, but fans of that story and of Margaret Petersen Haddix's Among the Hidden (Simon & Schuster, 1998/VOYA October 1998) will be thrilled to find another exciting read featuring a daring young person determined to fight for her right to live free. Reviewer: Snow Wildsmith
Goodman turns to a future world setting to tell what might happen if the world as we know it is destroyed by environmental changes and a benevolent (or maybe not so benevolent) dictator seeks to keep people safe. It's not hard to see some parallels in the modern world, as citizens seem willing to give up hard-fought-for liberties in exchange for feeling safer. Her main character is Honor, born in the year of the Hsall children her age have names that begin with H. She has spent most of her childhood in relative freedom with her parents away from The Enclosure. Now, they are living within the "protection" of The Enclosure, and Honor is seeing firsthand what school is like therewhat "right" answers are. Her parents find other dissidents, Honor's little brother is born, and escape is attemptedwith much action and many interesting details. There are parallel themes to The Giver, though this book's plot is more complex. Reviewer: Claire Rosser
Honor and her parents have been forcibly relocated to a seaside shack, the most dangerous living facility in this carefully constructed dystopia. In this future world, reminiscent of that in Lois Lowry's The Giver (Houghton, 1993), the Corporation, headed by the mysterious Earth Mother, has created a totally controlled society. Lands are being enclosed to protect the inhabitants from freak natural weather, and "safe" weather is created with overlays-fake sunrises and sunsets projected daily on the sky. Honor's parents refuse to conform. Honor suffers from being different, but when she meets Helix, a boy whose parents are also intent on rebelling against the Corporation, the two children must discover a way to rescue Helix's parents and Honor's mother, who have been "taken" and turned into the zombielike orderlies who mindlessly serve the government. Honor's evolution from someone willing to conform to make life easier and safer to one committed to fight for her individuality is believable. The increasingly sinister atmosphere, echoing elements of National Socialism and China's Cultural Revolution, is well done. Parodies of self-help books for children ("What It Feels Like When Parents Disappear") add grim humor. Miss Blessing, one of the Corporation toadies, with her perfectly buttoned cardigan and high sweet voice, is a particularly chilling character. A compelling science-fiction novel.-Quinby Frank, Green Acres School, Rockville, MD
A popular adult author tries her hand at a dystopian children's novel, with mixed results. In a future where only a few habitable islands remain on waterlogged Earth, ten-year-old Honor lives on Island 365 with her unconventional scientist parents. Though Honor attends a government school that espouses the propaganda of Earth Mother (the environmental version of an Orwellian Big Brother), her parents are part of a whisper campaign against the push to "Enclose" all remaining land to protect it from the wild weather patterns. They also take issue with the ban on any books, music or art that doesn't come from "The Corporation." Eventually Honor's parents are arrested for their radical views and Honor is forced on a quest to the unregulated "other side of the island" to find them. Though Goodman's straightforward and sometimes emotionally distant environmental fable suffers in comparison to similarly themed titles, such as Lowry's subtle Giver (1993) and Westerfeld's exciting Uglies (2007), the simple prose, clear message and timely topic still make this a solid introduction to the genre for middle-grade readers. (Science fiction. 11-14)
*A Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2008*
*A Washington Post Best Book of 2008*
*A Village Voice Best Book of 2008*
“This beautifully written novel is a dystopian page-turner, using well-worn tropes to confront adult issues such as authoritarian government and global warming.” — Washington Post
“Allegra Goodman develops her world with deft strokes, bringing together the linguistic traditions of the dystopian novel with those of classic post-disaster stories…” — New York Times Book Review
"A dark vision rendered in wonderful and imaginative detail, The Other Side of the Island is a cautionary tale that will likely be embraced by left-leaning, politically aware and environmentally conscious teens and adults alike, regardless of whether or not they read sci-fi." — Los Angeles Times
“From Kaaterskill Falls to Intuition, Goodman’s fiction proves that she can tackle big subjects with unobtrusively graceful and perceptive prose. Her first YA offering, a dystopian eco-fantasy in which a malevolent Corporation lulls North America’s few remaining inhabitants into complacency with memory altering substances, misinformation, fake skies and a leader named Earth Mother, is a top-notch genre piece…” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“Gripping and creepily prescient.” —Village Voice