Nil by Lynne Matson
Novel: Nil by Lynne Matson | Goodreads
Release Date: March 4th, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt
Source: Borrowed from another blogger
On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have one year. 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 lying 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 to save their future, Charley must first save him. And on an island rife with dangers, their greatest threat is time.
I’m not going to lie. I had high expectations for this book, but if anything, I guess I should finally learn to not carry such high expectations. It wasn’t a bad book, per say, but a lot of it just didn’t work for me and for various reasons.
Firstly, I have to talk about the romance. I understand that time is short and precious, but I was never convinced of their supposed love. There were so many times where I felt like Thad didn’t truly respect and understand the fact that yes, of course Charley needs some help, but she’s also a big girl that can figure out how to survive on her own. Their dependency on one another just rattled me in so many ways because I understand their desperation and their need to hold on to one another, but it just felt like there was no connection between them other than that they’re both attractive and sort of get to know one another. And no, knowing about one another’s previous relationships doesn’t count as knowing a lot about them. The thing is, I never saw how their lives outside of Nil came into play (for the most part). None of their past struggles, other than Thad’s problems with his dad (which were barely mentioned) and Charley’s problems with her ex/the kids at school. I just think that there should be more to them as characters than is portrayed. Yes, maybe it’s not as important, but to form the type of relationship and dependency they had, yeah, I needed more.
And not feeling the romance messed up many other portions of the book for me. The pacing was very inconsistent. While I understand the need to have more of the beginning explained so that the reader, and Charley, could be acquainted with the island, it felt as if the beginning and middle dragged on while the end went by extremely quickly. Additionally, while there certainly were other themes and plots, I felt as if everything was just so centered around the relationship between Thad and Charley that it overshadowed everything else, including the need to survive.
Going on from there, I felt as if some of it was too easy. Yeah, I get that it’s hard for them to get by, but I didn’t see much of that. They always seemed to have some type of food and drink, whether they complained about it or not. I mean, come on, there has to be some point where you run out of food or go hungry, right? Then, there’s the fact that for the most part, save for the major deaths later on, it wasn’t completely hard to survive. They had knives from past islanders (but how does one make a metal knife on an island), they all miraculously had impressive skills that would help them survive (sorry but they’re teenagers; most of them should probably be more pre-occupied with school than learning some of those skills, but maybe that’s just me). They could go surfing, play volleyball, run, etc. It just…didn’t sit right with me oftentimes.
Speaking of major deaths, I sometimes felt as if the deaths were just plot devices. Yes, the deaths had an impact, but on such an island, shouldn’t more people have died of other things–perhaps sanitary issues or maybe someone gets sick or maybe even someone has a heat stroke (not necessarily death-inducing).
Lastly, the ending was just so…aggravating to me, and for so many reasons. I don’t want to include spoilers, so I can’t really go into detail over it, but part of the end felt like a cop-out, and the other part just felt…weird. Unrealistic.
But there were aspects that made the book bearable and kept me from completely hating it. Firstly, there’s a diverse cast of characters. Yes, I would have liked to see how differing cultures and life experiences shaped each and changed the way they interacted with one another, but it’s a start. Additionally, I felt like despite the diversity, the ones that were in the main focus weren’t as diverse. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but I would have liked to see some more. Additionally, okay, I guess this isn’t a positive, but I would have liked to see people with disabilities or illnesses or other things. I would have liked to see what life was like for someone who isn’t in shape. I wanted to see what life was like for someone that had asthma or allergies to something on the island. We get the sense that Nil doesn’t discriminate, and yes, we have a large, diverse cast in terms of race, but what about other forms of diversity. And I know there’s only so much an author can include without overwhelming the reader, but even one character would have been nice to see. But overall, I liked that there was racial diversity in the novel, and it was all the better for having a diverse cast.
Moving on, I also liked the “mystery” surrounding Charley’s finding out about the Man/Woman in the Maze. That mystery was honestly what ultimately kept me reading towards the end. Charley would figure out a piece of the puzzle, only to find that they were missing something else. I certainly could have never figured out the truth/map, and I believe that this plot arc was extremely well written and integrated. It kept the story interesting when it was starting to get dull.
Overall, I know it makes it sound as if this book was so far from being enjoyable, but there was still an element that I liked about it. I think the premise remains an excellent one, and I’m actually really content with not completely knowing how Nil. I don’t think it needs to be explained. Nil is about more than the island itself, and I think that in the end, Lynne Matson portrayed that well, even if not in a way I would have preferred it. Matson’s dedication to creating a diverse cast was done as best as she could without having been overwhelming. Certain mysteries were integrated at just the right time to create just the right amount of suspense and tension. Though the pacing, romance, focus, and some of the plot and character arcs bothered me, overall, it wasn’t a terrible read.