In a shocking turn of events, it's already August and
summer is more than halfway over. I know that this happens very nearly every year, but I still can't help feeling just a tad disappointed. I mean, yet another summer has come and gone without a single deserted island romance, swashbuckling adventure, or horrific, island-based mystery. I can't speak for the rest of you, but I've gone the whole summer without discovering a single uncharted continent or getting shipwrecked with a majestic wild stallion even once. So if you're looking for a last minute getaway before summer comes to a close, here are some of the greatest books set on mysterious islands that are almost as good as the real thing.
The "mysterious island" genre is weird and wide-ranging. Some islands are tropical paradises, while others are chilly, rocky outposts in the cold northern sea. Some are deserted, and others are full of fairies (or dinosaurs, or mermaids, or wrong-sized animals). All of them make for a fun, mini, mental vacation as summer comes to its finish. So back your swimsuit and your explorer's notebook, bring plenty of rations and maybe a knife, and enjoy these stories set on strange, strange islands:
'From the Mouth of the Whale' by Sjón
Jónas is a poet and a healer, and he's just been banished to a barren island of the coast of frigid Iceland. So it goes when you're a heretic in 1635. As he tries to make a new life for himself, Jónas recalls the moments that have brought him here, including his exorcism of a walking corpse, the murder of a number of whalers, and the deaths of his own children.
Click here to buy. 'The Price Guide to the Occult' by Leslye Walton
Over a century ago, a witch was driven out of her home on Anathema Island, landing all other inhabitants under a curse. In the present, young Nor Blackburn just wants to live an ordinary life, despite her cursed circumstances and her (admittedly unremarkable) supernatural powers. But a strange book and a coming storm pull Nor into a mystery that will make her life anything but ordinary (provided she can stay alive).
Click here to buy. 'The Gloaming' by Kirsty Logan
Mara lives on an island where magic is more or less accepted as fact. After all, Mara already knows that she'll never die: one day she'll simply turn to stone at the edge of a cliff, gazing out to sea. But the sea is unpredictable, and Mara soon finds herself scarred by a tragedy and then fascinated by the magnetic Pearl, who brings life to the island like no one else.
Click here to buy. 'Pym' by Mat Johnson
Let's be honest here: a lot of those classic adventure stories about (white) explorers finding "undiscovered" islands full of (non-white) natives do
not hold up too well these days. That's what makes Pym so utterly great. Mat Johnson subverts that whole "lost continent" narrative. In his smart, satirical send up of the adventure genre, an all-black crew of six seek Poe's fabled island of Tsalal in the hopes of finding the last untouched bastion of the African Diaspora. Click here to buy. 'Jane, Unlimited' by Kristin Cashore
Jane's late Aunt Magnolia always made life an adventure. Now that she's gone, though, it seems like Jane is doomed to be ordinary. At least, until a glamorous acquaintance invites Jane to a gala at an extravagant island mansion called Tu Reviens. Jane accepts. But Tu Reviens is stranger than it seems, and Jane's choices on this island could change her life forever...
Click here to buy. 'Snake Ropes' by Jess Richards
Mary and Morgan are coming of age on the same remote island, where people live in awe of the mysterious Thrashing House. Mary wants to protect her brother, Barney, from whoever is stealing away all the island's sons. Morgan wants to escape the prison of her home. Together, they must unravel the secrets of their isolated community, before it's far too late.
Click here to buy. 'Summer of Salt' by Katrina Leno
The inhabitants of the island By-the-Sea have always known that the Fernweh women are different. They're the family to turn to if you need help with odds and ends, sleeping potions and that sort of thing. When a sudden tragedy strikes, however, the "helpful" Fernweh family is cast into suspicion, and young Georgina Fernweh is caught in the middle of a stormy summer mystery.
Click here to buy. 'Beauty Queens' by Libba Bray
A plane crash strands 13 young beauty contestants on what seems to be a deserted isle. So naturally, the teens must struggle to overcome their differences in order to survive, to explore their strange new home, and to learn their dance routines
just in case they still make it to the competition in time. Click here to buy. 'Miranda and Caliban' by Jacqueline Carey
The Tempest, Miranda is the sweet, innocent daughter of a duke-turned-wizard, and Caliban is a hideous monster who wants to ravish her. Miranda and Caliban complicates that narrative. What if the nobleman's daughter and the wild boy of the island actually grew to have a mutual respect for one another? What if Prospero got it all wrong? This island romance re-writes the story for a smart, satisfying subversion of Shakespeare's classic. Click here to buy. 'The People in the Trees' by Hanya Yanagihara
A doctor and an anthropologist are off on an expedition to the remote island of Ivu'ivu, in search of a lost tribe. In addition to the fabled tribe, however, they also find an ancient community of forest-dwellers, called "The Dreamers." There may be a secret to the fantastically long lives of these strange folk, but the discovery of possible immortality comes at a terrible price.
Click here to buy. 'Jurassic Park' by Michael Crichton
Yes, you've probably seen the movie already. And yes, the book has more or less the same plot. But there's a reason that Crichton's dinosaur island was such a big hit, and why it was adapted into one of the greatest adventure films of all time. The book is a pulse-pounding thrill ride in its own right, updating the tired tropes of the "lost world" fiction for an unforgettable sci-fi thrill ride.
Click here to buy.