"The morning was fresh from the rain. The smell of the tide pools was strong. Sweet odors came from the wild grasses in the ravines and from the sand plants on the dunes.” The Island (1988) by Gary Paulsen depicts the wilderness at its most calming and comforting state. The book takes place in rural Northern Wisconsin and tells the story of how a young boy was able to take refuge and seek wisdom from an island that nobody else seemed to understand the value of.
In the midst of tremendous change in life, it is inevitable to feel isolated and out of control. The Island deals with teenager Wil Neuton, who faces this situation when he is forced to move away from his familiar neighborhood and friends because of his father’s new job. However, Wil discovers an overlooked island near his new home, and this dramatic meeting marks a turning point in his life.
Wil is drawn to the island and decides to stay there rather than go back home. His wilderness adventure evolves into an inner journey in search of his identity. His excessive obsession with the island is misunderstood, concerning his parents and the whole town. However, Wil refuses to make himself understood and instead persists in letting go of the outside world and embracing his newly found solitude.
Similar to Hatchet (1987) and Brian’s Winter (1996), some of the author’s other award-winning works, The Island is a smooth mix of wilderness adventure and a coming-of-age story. A large part of the novel deals with the connection Wil feels with the animals on the island. The other half portrays the struggle the teenager faces with his parents and the town bullies.
The intricate detail of Paulsen’s imagery in portraying the wilderness is what makes the book stand out. The level of detail the author has included in the book puts the readers in awe. Powerful imagery and vivid details not only describe the action but appeal to every sense to help create a clearer picture in the readers’ mind. The book radiates a mental and emotional calmness by painting a comforting and beautiful picture of small-town life.
Contemplative and philosophical are other ways to describe the novel. It tries to convey to its readers that everyone, at least once in their lifetime, needs a break, a break from uncertainty and anxiety to find peace of mind and their internal identity. The fact that Wil is able to find a solitary place for him to discover, learn, and contemplate his life sends a hopeful message to readers regarding taking the time for introspection.
“The island sat in the middle of the lake waiting for Wil and it seemed to find him.” Wil’s sanctuary in his time of need and confusion was a neglected island on Sucker Lake, Northern Wisconsin. By prompting self-discovery, the island changes Wil for the better. The growth and relationships experienced by the young protagonist in the midst of a tremendous change in his life provide a lovely and beautiful story that is worth both the readers’ time and memory.