The Lost Island of Tamarind

Title: The Lost Island of Tamarind

Author: Nadia Aguiar

Maya has been traveling with her marine biologist parents on their boat, the Pamela Jane, for as long as she can remember. It used to be fun, living out on the ocean, but these days she’d much rather stay on land, where she can make friends. But when a storm strands Maya, her younger brother Simon, and their baby sister Penny on a remote island, the children have to fend for themselves. And Tamarind is no ordinary island, but one with hints of magic and mystery . . .

I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. What drew me in initially was the very solid, grounded, realistic writing. The prose does a very good job painting Maya, Simon, and Penny as three ordinary kids thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Unfortunately, that’s also what eventually drove me to ragequit the book. Kids stranded on magical island? Sounds awesome! Except what happens is almost exactly what you might expect: the kids really struggle to make it alone, get help from several kindly people (and even a few not-so-kindly), meander around a bit looking for their parents, and so on. I was hoping for a little more fantastical adventuring and daring-do.

And this isn’t helped by the way Maya consistently takes the low road. Rather than earning things or making things, she’s constantly stealing them. Even for the people who likely would help, she doesn’t ask. The most aggravating example is when she justifies playing with an older man’s love for his estranged niece to manipulate him into helping her find her parents.

This is compounded by the fact that the rest of the story really isn’t that interesting either, because the interesting things get buried in that dreaded realism. For example, Maya and Simon hear about a dreaded lady who rides a jaguar and kidnaps children. This plays out how one might expect, for the first part. But after meeting her, she fades into a menacing part of the background, because the kids sit locked up in a cage that they don’t even seem to be trying that hard to get out of. No fights. No adventure. Not even participating in being captured the way the other kids were. And then a random airplane rescues them (and all I could think here was, this island magically ruins devices. How is this plane still able to fly?).

So overall I guess this story is going to depend on what you want to get out of it. If you’re looking for a kids-cast-away-on-a-magical-island adventure, you might want to check those expectations at the door (and then go read something like Seabourne that does more to make this an adventure). If you’re looking for a more realistic take where the kids are kids and are pretty helpless alone, then this probably won’t annoy you as much as it did me. I rate this book Neutral.

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