Island – An Adventure Survival Series For Tweens

Book Review: Island, Book One: Shipwrecked
Island, Book Two: Survival
Island, Book Three: Escape

By Gordon Korman

Spoiler Alert!



Six kids. One fate.
They didn’t want to be on the boat in the first place. They were sent there as a character-building experience. But now that the adults are gone, the quest for survival has begun. This first book in a suspenseful survival trilogy delivers the gripping drama of people battling the elements to younger readers. (Courtesy of

Adult Point of View

There are a large number of fantasy books for tween readers that have been written since the  Harry Potter series. My kids have had a harder time finding series that feel more realistic that they enjoy. The Island series by Korman was written in 2001 and is realistic. (Ok, actually Korman has the characters note how unlikely it is that all these tragic events would happen to them, so it really could be called a fantasy, but there are no dragons, magic or supernatural phenomenon.) The series is actually one book that has been separated into three shorter books. I was glad to have it broken up this way because it will draw in reluctant readers who more easily get overwhelmed trying to tackle a thick book.

Book One: Shipwreck

We are introduced to the six kids, who really aren’t that like-able as they spout attitude and  have a strong streak of entitlement. Each kid has been sent on boat for a different reason. Luke is filling a court sentence, Will and Lyssa are siblings whose fighting is out of control, Charla is burned out trying to succeed, Ian watches too much TV and J.J. is a rich menace and son of a famous actor. We are also introduced to the adults running the S.S. Phoenix, Captain James Cascadden, a born sailor and his first mate, Mr. Radford who is appropriately dubbed Rat-face.

The first chapter or so slogs the reader down with a lot of ship jargon. I don’t feel like it added a lot, though it highlighted how uncomfortable Luke was in his unfamiliar surroundings. The shipwreck will quickly have readers pulling open Book Two.

Book Two: Survival

Book two is when the series gets more interesting. I was glad to see that Korman wasn’t re-writing Lord of the Flies or creating a new Robinson Crusoe. Ian continues to be very useful will his knowledge from TV and does have a McGuyver moment helping rig a contraption to help them collect more fresh water. Luke rises as a leader and becomes a character with new depth. I actually think it is really hard to develop characters in tween books because of the restrictions of space and vocabulary. Korman defines each child with a unique personality. I hope to see J.J. change, he is extremely annoying!

Each catastrophe brings the survivors closer to death. I believe young readers will be on the edge of their seats. I laughed over the improbable circumstances, but the fast paced action will keep those reluctant readers turning pages!

Book Three: Escape

The cast aways have all grown up in the last few weeks out of necessity, except J.J. Korman has obvious plotted the characters backstories well to have each person with a strong role to play in their survival. Luke notes how each one has a place and is important for their survival, except J.J., who thinks that the CNC program directors are filming everything and that the six kids will be swept up and rescued if they are in any real danger. J.J. finally finds his role and is instrumental in the final escape. The improbable events continue to abound and grow even larger, some would say to a nuclear proportion.

Tweens will love this series and I recommend it for them. One note to make is that each book uses the Lord’s name in vain a couple of times which some will find offensive. I wish Korman had kept with squeaky clean language since it is written at a fourth grade level. There was no romance, hooray! I enjoy Korman’s writing style and look forward to reading more of his novels.

3.5 out of 5 stars

  • the Mother

Child’s review

4 out of 5 stars

ps- I learned some new facts about WWII in this book and verified which were actual and which were factual used for the novel.

About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow-cooked in a tagine. I write stories and illustrate in ink.
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