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Nil by Lynne MatsonTitle: Nil
Author: Lynne Matson
ISBN: 9780805097719
No. of Pages: 384
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Thriller
Origins: Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
Release Date: 4 March 2014
Bottom Line: An excellent debut novel that is exciting, creative, and fun

“On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have exactly 365 days to escape—or you die.

Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing she remembers is blacking out, and when she wakes up, she’s naked in an empty rock field.

Lost and alone, Charley finds no sign of other people until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought . . . and so is falling in love. With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that she has to find a way to beat the clock, and quickly, in this thrilling debut novel by Lynne Matson.”

Thoughts: The answers about Nil never exceed the number of questions that exist about this deadly piece of paradise. While in most science fiction novels, the lack of precise answers would be frustrating and a total drawback of the story, Ms. Matson makes it work. In fact, one has the distinct impression that if she were to give specific answers, they would be intensely disappointing and distracting. It is the mystery of the place, those unknown elements, which creates the tension and quickens the heart rate. Ms. Matson balances the line between too little and too much information by providing just enough answers to satisfy without overindulging in exposition and heavy explanations, making a reader’s speculation a key element of the story.

For a novel in which the action on the island is essential to the plot, the characters on the island are every bit as vibrant and alive as the enigmatic Nil. In essence, it is neither an action-driven plot nor a character-driven one but an essential blend of the two. Even though Thad and Charley, for obvious reasons, have the most development, the other island inhabitants never fade into the background as secondary characters. Even the least developed character has a vitality that emphasizes the randomness of Nil as well as their collective strengths and differences. This is no Lord of the Flies scenario; there is no free-for-all at play. It is a genuine collaboration among all involved that is enjoyable to watch. The islanders celebrate their diversity, something entirely inspiring to behold.

Part romance, part science fiction thriller, Nil attracts readers with its ability to cross genres. Thad is the type of character which will make female readers swoon from his charisma, his intense emotions, and the vulnerability hiding behind his natural leadership skills. Charley is equally admirable with her adorably needless insecurity, determination, and unabashed intelligence. They make a great couple, and their relationship is pure joy to watch blossom. Tempering all the romance is the very real danger of Nil itself. The ongoing mystery behind its existence and the fate of each kid who finds him/herself on the island maintains a level of suspense that never wavers or weakens. It is a thrilling piece of fiction that leaves plenty of room for speculation and adoration. One expects big things from Ms. Matson after this!

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