Wednesday, 3 May 2017

 

The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Last year I made it my mission to read more children's novels again, and my favourite one I read was undoubtedly The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. It was a novel filled to the brim with magical adventures and girl power. Doused in the same inventive world-building and storytelling as myths and legends, it was an endlessly exciting discovery all while infusing important subjects such as friendship, family and kick-ass female heroines. It deservedly won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, and I was very excited when I was given the opportunity to review Kiran's brand-new novel, The Island at the End of Everything.

Ami lives on a beautiful island in the middle of the ocean. Except, while the vegetation might be lush and the ocean full of fish, the island and the people on it are shunned by the outside world. Culion is a leper colony, and while Ami doesn't suffer from this her Nanay (mum) does. Ami was born on the island and doesn't know anything different than living with her Nanay in the small community. It's a place mostly made up of people who suffer from leprosy in various stages of the disease, though rather than refer to them as lepers, they say that they're 'touched'.

The disease isn't contagious in a controlled environment, and so Ami isn't in any danger, but the government decides to make a big change. People who suffer from the disease from all over will be brought to the island to remove them from society. To make space, the children that don't have the disease will be brought to an orphanage on another island. The government official in charge is the cruel Mr Zamora who avoids those that are touched and abuses his power over the children. His arrival announces the end of Ami's life as she knows it, and her journey afterwards, both physically and mentally, is both heartrending and inspiring.

I was very excited to read this novel after falling in love with Kiran's debut The Girl of Ink and Stars and wasn't disappointed. Equally beautifully written with a touch of magical realism, this is a book that tugs at the heartstrings as it deals with mental health, loss and acceptance in the most enlightening of ways. It was far from an easy read, as many things within the pages felt unfair, but rooted as it is in real historical events it made it all the more evident that life is unfair, and it's about how you deal with it that makes a difference.

Just like Isabella in A Girl of Ink and Stars, Ami is a bad-ass girl who we can all aspire to be like. She's having the worst of times but it doesn't make her cruel or give up hope, it gives her courage and wisdom to power through. I doubt I would've been as strong and forgiving had I been put in a similar position, but Ami is certainly an inspiration to readers.

And Kiran is an incredible writer to bring Ami's story to life; her words flowing together into beautiful prose while not distracting from the tale she is telling. There were many moments I reread a sentence or paragraph because I found it being told so wonderfully, for example: 'Nanay kisses both hands and blows them to me. I catch them fast as falling stars and pocket them.' How beautiful is that? From now on I will always try to think that kisses from loves ones are falling stars that I can pocket, it certainly makes the idea of saying goodbye and being far away just that little bit easier.

The Island at the End of Everything is a difficult novel to read at times (water spilled out of my eyes on more than one occasion), but it's also incredibly rewarding. Ami's kindness and courageous are a huge inspiration, after all if after the hardship she goes through she can still be forgiving and brave there is absolutely no excuse for us to not do the same when faced with challenges in our own lives. And wrapped up in Kiran's beautiful words, this is yet another piece of magic by her hand in book shape that will undoubtedly win the hearts and imaginations of many readers. ♥



The Island at the End of Everything is published by Chicken House and you can get your copy from Foyles or your own preferred retailer.


Connect with the author:

Website: www.kiranmillwoodhargrave.co.uk

Twitter: @Kiran_MH




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