Ever since he was little, eleven-year-old Martin Hart has been hearing about the amazing Island of Beyond where his father and uncle used to spend their summers as boys. Despite Mrs. Hart’s insistence that there is nothing wrong with Martin, Mr. Hart is frustrated with the fact that Martin spends all his time in his room playing video games and talking to the people in his imaginary town. Mr. Hart decides to drive him to Maine to stay with Great-Aunt Lenore who owns the island.
Martin panics. No TV. No cell reception. No computer. What will he do?
When they arrive, Martin meets Aunt Lenore, who appears to be suffering from Alzheimer’s; Tess, Aunt Lenore’s caregiver; and Uncle Ned, Aunt Lenore’s brother whom Mr. Hart does not like in the least. Things look grim until a local boy named Solo turns up. Solo is accustomed to living on his own outdoors and together have a few rather tame adventures until Mr.Hart returns for Martin a month later.
The summary for Elizabeth Atkinson’s latest leads one to believe that this will be a story about how a 21st century tech-saturated boy will come to appreciate the wonders of the great outdoors. In actuality, the book focuses primarily on Martin’s introspection and self-analysis. For an eleven-year-old boy, he spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about his feelings. That, in addition to his habit of talking to a small stuffed animal (Mr. Little) will surely be a turn-off for most boys (and girls) of this target audience.
Martin is fully aware of his aversion to anything most parents would consider healthy. He only decides to step outside his comfort zone because he feels an attraction for Solo that he cannot explain. Any suspicions the reader may have that the author has a social agenda to push are confirmed when Martin learns that Uncle Ned and Solo’s great-grandfather are a couple.
Sadly, the real plot of the book is completely omitted, that is, the story of Aunt Lenore. Aunt Lenore is not the least bit senile. She is simply faking it to see which of her relatives she can trust. She takes a liking to Martin and lets him in on the secret. The potential story line of a family relationship that spans generations (and the humor that could have ensued) is totally lost in an attempt to portray Mr. Hart as a domineering, greedy homophobe. While he may be all of those things, he is also the adult who initially helps Martin to step outside of himself, changing the boy’s life for the better.
A former teacher, Jennifer Minicus is currently a full-time wife and mother.