ISLAND by Patrick Downes


Age Range: 16 & up
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Seventeen-year-old Konrad “Rad” Schoe’s mentally ill father is dead, and he doesn’t know how to feel about it.

When Rad’s twin brother, Key, claims he might be responsible for the fact that their father’s body is lying dead at the bottom of a ravine, Rad doesn’t know whether to believe him. Key has always been calm and loving while Rad is haunted by intense emotions that often manifest in fits of rage, much like their father’s. As Rad tries to understand what happened—and to protect his brother from the police—he tells the story of how their family fell apart, including his father’s first mental breakdown and his mother’s sudden death. Throughout, Rad struggles to keep his hold on reality—and to fight his fear that he may suffer from the same mental illness that runs in his family. Rad’s erratic voice, which includes truncated sentences and quick changes in perspective, is darkly poetic but often reads much older than his age. Furthermore, the unresolved plot points make the novel feel more like literary fiction than young adult. The island metaphor that runs throughout sometimes feels forced, as do the romantic relationships. Rad and his family are white and working class, Key is queer, and two secondary characters are implied biracial (Korean/white).

A psychological portrait of a family torn apart by grief and mental illness that is, at times, overly dramatic. (Fiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: May 7th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-77306-192-4
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Groundwood
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2019


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