The Islands at the End of the World
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Islands at the End of the World is a haunting eco-thriller that explores humanity's savage side when people are isolated and frightened. Simmering ethnic resentment leads to brutal executions by roving gangs, and power-hungry people seize the opportunity to bully their way to the top of the heap. Lei and her father are nearly killed several times as the islands plunge into chaos, and they witness shootings and dead bodies. Father and daughter reluctantly resort to underhanded means -- including stealing and wielding a weapon -- for self-preservation. That said, there are touching moments of humanity, particularly Lei's encounter with a guard at a camp and a spiritual leader trying to help his community meet the challenges of a tech-free world with generosity, compassion, and faith. Spirituality is a strong thread, mingling both Christian tenets and traditional Hawaiian beliefs. Lei's dad talks her into trying pot as a respite during their arduous journey. Some stress-induced cursing includes "a--hole," "son of a bitch," "damned," "hell," "Christ," and "goddammit." There's a planned sequel, The Girl at the Center of the World.
What's the story?
Sixteen-year-old Leilani is half-white, half-Hawaiian, and a relative newcomer to the Big Island, but she feels rooted there. Her classmates, however, disdainfully regard her as an outsider -- and it doesn't help that she's prone to epileptic seizures. But when she and her dad are stranded on Oahu after a mysterious global power outage, their mixed heritage has even more troubling ramifications: As resources dwindle, some locals begin hunting down non-natives. Lei and her father escape a military camp and dodge arrows, dogs, and bullets on a desperate journey across the islands toward home. Along the way, Lei realizes that her strange, dreamlike seizures may be tied to the global crisis -- and she just might be the one person who can save the world.
Is it any good?
THE ISLANDS AT THE END OF THE WORLD is a riveting, beautifully written first novel by Austin Aslan. His background in biology and geography and his passion for Hawaii’s history and traditions transform this from just another apocalyptic fantasy into a nuanced meditation on our relationship with our history, our present, and our future on this planet. Lei is a terrific heroine: She seems an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances, but her compassion and desire for normalcy help her surmount daunting obstacles. The relationship between father and daughter is touching and authentic. The violence is often startling and sometimes gruesome, and the collapse of civility seems frighteningly realistic.
Aslan brews a satisfying mystery by pulling together bits of Hawaiian mythology and Christian beliefs, a splash of science fiction, and a few classic apocalyptic scenarios, all grounded in ecology. Setting the story in Hawaii is convenient -- what place could be more cut off from the rest of the globe? But Aslan takes it much further, letting Hawaii's complexities serve as a microcosm of the larger world. It's an intriguing tale for anyone who loves the Hawaiian Islands -- but it might be best to read it after your holiday in paradise.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the popularity of apocalyptic tales. Why are end-of-the-world scenarios so enduring as a dramatic setup?
Hawaii is romanticized and idealized as a paradise. Does this book change the way you view the Islands and the people who live there?
How do you think your community would react to a crisis like the one in The Islands at the End of the World? Would the balance of power change?