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The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman

Honor and her parents have arrived on island #365 as some sort of refugees from the far north, where contrary to what is being taught in the schools on the island, polar bears still exist, leaves change color according to season, and weather is unpredictable and out of control. Honor’s parents may be some sort of rebels against the New Weather, but Honor just wants to conform–until tragedy forces her to action.

Goodman’s dystopian novel addresses environmental issues, autocratic government, and censorship through complete worldbuilding and strong, believable character development. Readers may find appeal in the dark humor, relate to the unorthodox budding friendship between Honor and orphaned boy Helix, or simply cheer the characters subversiveness against government mandates. The story, which spans several years, is well-paced, and Goodman allows Allegra’s voice to subtly mature as she becomes more aware of realities of the world she lives.

This title is ideal for book discussion, due to the complex themes and open-ended conclusion. Put into the hands of fans of The Giver by Lois Lowry, or Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Shadow Children series, recommended for grades 5-8.

review by Beth Gallaway, July 2011

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