Wild Man Island

Wild Man Island

Note: Don’t be turned off by this book’s cover.  It looks like some cheesy novel from 1970s.  That’s unfortunate, but it’s in no way a reflection on the book itself, which is actually pretty good. 

Author: Will Hobbs

Publication: Harper Trophy, 2002

Pages: 184

Overall Rating:  bth_35_zps7a173504[1]                      

Rating for Action: bth_35_zps7a173504[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_3-star-rating_zps73bdba73[1]

Age Category: 9-12

Brief Summary:  Andy Galloway is on a sea kayaking trip to a group of islands off the southeast coast of Alaska.  Near the end of the trip he sneaks away from the group to visit the place where his archeologist father died while investigating a theory that the first people in the Americas crossed over from Asia on boats rather than a land bridge from Russia.  This may sound like a convoluted premise, but Hobbs does a great job working the archeological theories into the story.

Andy is blown off course by a sudden storm and winds up shipwrecked on Admiralty Island – a huge wilderness with only one small native settlement and the largest population of bears per square mile of any place on earth.  It also happens to be home to a wild man, dressed in tree bark clothing and carrying a stone spear.  And he is not happy to find Andy in his home.

Age of Main Character: 14

What I Liked the Most: Hobbs manages to combine a traditional survival story with well researched science and history.  It’s quite clear that he’s spent time on Admiralty Island and there are some wonderful descriptions of its dense wilderness and abundant wildlife.

The novel actually provided a fascinating alternative take on the history of how the Americas were first settled.  Hobbs lays out all the theories behind how the first native peoples might have reached the Americas by boat, mixing it in with a good bit of action to keep things interesting.

What I Liked the Least:  While Hobbs does a great job describing Andy’s shipwreck, I thought that his first few days of survival on the island were too rushed.  I couldn’t help comparing this novel to Gary Paulson’s Hatchet.   It’s an excellent story, but everything’s too compressed.  We rush through the first few days – from Andy’s crash to his first sighting of the wild man – in no more than 25 pages.  And while Hobbs does an admirable job of showing us how desperate Will’s situation is, it felt like he was rushing this part of the story in order to get us to the wild man.  I think Hobbs could really have benefited from slowing things down here and concentrating on those first few days, building up that story so that could more better understand Andy’s reaction when he first spies the wild man.

How Good was the Action?  For the most part it was excellent.   The description of Andy’s desperate battle in the sea kayak was first rate.  I really felt like I was out there riding the swells and battling to stay afloat.  Hobbs also does a great job with many of the scenes that take place as Andy is exploring the hidden depths of the wild man’s cave.  It’s a world of both terror and breathtaking beauty and Hobbs carefully balance those two emotions.

How Engaging was the Story?   I liked Will’s search for clues about his father’s past.  This history and his own interest in prehistoric archaeology gave him a solid link to the wild man and made the story far more interesting.  That said, the last forty pages of the book were not as engaging as some of the earlier portions.  While there were some good action scenes to keep the story moving along, once Andy discovered the truth about the wild man, the book lost some of its oomph.

Overall Assessment: Wild Man Island is a much better book than the cover would have suggested.  I learned a bit about prehistory and the competing theories about the settlement of the Americas, all in an enjoyable fashion with some good action thrown in.  As a survival story, however, it lacks the raw punch of novels like Hatchet and Red Midnight.

Profanity: None

Sex: None

Violence: Minimal to none.

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