Title: When We Get To The Island
Author: Alex Nye
Publisher: Fledgling Press
Date of publication: November 2020
Number of pages: 256
Hani is 12 and invisible, and yet everyone wants to capture him. After escaping from Syria with his sister, he finds himself working in atrocious conditions somewhere in Scotland. When his sister disappears, he begins a perilous journey to find her, across some of the wildest terrain in Scotland.
Mia is also on the run, and sometimes it feels as if she will never stop running. When she helps Hani escape from his captors, the two become inseparable. Her dream is to reach the island where she was last happy, when her parents were alive, and find the little house she believes they still own. Once we reach the island, she tells Hani, everything will be okay.
But their journey takes them into dangerous landscapes, hunted by dangerous men, chased through a system of underground flooded caverns while a great storm sweeps the coast. Whatever happens, Mia knows that she must help Hani to find his sister. What they will really find at the end of their journey may come as a surprise to both of them.
Alex Nye is the award-winning author of Chill and Darker Ends.
What do you think about when you watch the news?
Usually, I think of the food in front of me while looking distractedly at the screen. That screen which is a barrier between my world and what happens everywhere else. When We Get to the Island stripped me of that protection. It put me in the here and now. It forced me to really look. And feel. And wonder when we began to fail those in need. Then I asked the one billion question. Will we ever manage to repair our mistakes and open our eyes?
Hani and his sister Reena have fled Syria. Yes, we hear this story a lot. They ended up in Calais. Touchy point, as I lived twenty minutes from there and was witness of the issues the Jungle caused. Maybe because it was ten years ago, or maybe because the news media tell us how to handle a subject, but I always thought of the Jungle in terms of what it meant for us French living around the area. It was probably a bit of both, with the passive stance of people who have their own problems to solve. I am not writing this and doing a mea culpa. We still act like this. We turn a blind eye. Well, most of us. I am not saying Alex Nye’s book is a big history and moral lesson about how to treat refugees. First and foremost, When We Get to the Island is the story of two children who fight for their survival in a world of adults.
With a simple yet elaborate prose, the author introduces the reader with two very different characters. Hani – refugee, slave, brother, invisible. Mia – orphan, unloved, invisible. Both are running. Hani to find his sister, kidnapped in the night, and Mia to find her island.
Finding each other is only the beginning. Throughout their journey to find Hani’s sister and a safe place, they have to face cruel men who don’t want to lose a illegal child worker they have paid for and the police looking for a young girl. Dangerous situations reinforce their friendship and their connection warmed my heart. In this cold and hard reality, discovering an ally means the world.
Supported by an efficient cast of characters, Hani and Mia reveal themselves. Their fears of adults and the threats they have learned to see everywhere kept reminding me of their stolen childhood. No matter how far they run, some scars don’t disappear. The gang chasing Hani is ruthless and Scotland is beautiful but perilous for two kids on their own.
Alex Nye has put so much humanity in her novel that it is bound to reach you. Current and hot topics served with a pinch of danger, under which is hidden the remains of innocence, this is what you can find between the pages of When We Get to the Island. No judgement, only a hope for safety and love. I was amazed by how the author manages to show that Hani and Mia’s stories are parallel. They have different backgrounds, but they are suffering from the loss of their family and find themselves alone against the universe. They have no say in what happens to them, having to rely on adults to decide on their fate.
I don’t often read Young Adult books, but I felt in very good hands with Alex Nye!
This novel is an intense YA experience that is accessible to all.
My thanks to Kelly at Love Books Tours for inviting me to read and review this novel.