Two young brothers attempt to solve the mystery of a remote island in Burton’s debut YA novella.
Rick Brown, 14, and his brother, Bob, 12, are excited by the prospect of spending the summer in their parents’ tiny cabin on the otherwise uninhabited Glass Island. It’s only 8 miles from their small Canadian fishing village but a world away from the usual humdrum of summer vacation. They quickly set about to discover the island’s secrets—a strange overgrown path visible only from above, a network of caves and the inexplicable reflective phenomenon, seen only at night, that gives the island its name. Burton’s story hearkens back to an earlier era of YA by showing an earnest appreciation for simple activities such as hiking and camping, a love for animals, and a wondrous appetite for nature and mystery. The simplicity of these pleasures stands out when contrasted with the unpleasant realities of the boys’ normal lives. Their parents and neighbors work in the dangerous, inconsistent commercial fishing industry; relatives are sick, elderly and poor. These issues are never foremost in Rick’s mind, yet the reader can see how they lead to his need for adventure and escape. Burton’s strategy of allowing these motivations to remain in the background sets the story apart from much contemporary YA. The tale generates its own momentum instead of relying on the drama of tragedy, which stays at the margins. Despite a number of missteps that temporarily distract—all characters, young and old, sound like senior citizens, and a major plot point involves some highly anachronistic villains—the novella doesn’t flag. It’s not overly concerned with its own credulity or deeper meaning; it’s a campfire story, captivating and short-lived.
A short, charming tale of boyhood adventure in the great outdoors.