May 09, 2009

The Meaning of Honor: The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman

You all know how I love a good dystopian novel (and if you didn't know that, you do now!). When I read Jen Robinson's review of The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman, I knew I had to put it on my TBR list. And I wasn't disappointed. If you liked Julie Bertagna's Exodus (review here), you'll probably want to pick this one up, too.

Some unspecified time in Earth's future, much of the land has been flooded, leaving only a slew of inhabited islands. The Earth Mother corporation has established a pseudo-environmentalist, Chairman-Mao-style domination of what's left of humanity, creating Enclosures with self-contained, controlled New Weather for the good of mankind. Also for the good of mankind, you'd better toe the line, or else you might just disappear.

Unfortunately, Honor's parents don't toe the line. After her family moves to Island 365, she learns in school that her parents' behavior is dangerous and subversive. She doesn't fit in, because what her parents taught her doesn't jive with what Earth Mother teaches. As she grows older, emerging from childhood, she wants more and more to fit in, and doesn't want her parents to get into trouble. Meanwhile, her friend Helix is becoming more and more of a misfit. What he has to tell her, she doesn't really want to hear.

It's not always easy to watch Honor's story unfold in this novel. She's very human and flawed, and doesn't always make wise choices--just like most of us. But it's what she ultimately learns from those choices, her willingness to learn, that matters, as well as her ability to regain faith in herself and those she loves even if she sometimes falters. She goes through a period of wanting to be like everyone else, but it is her individuality that saves her--a bit of wisdom we could all stand to absorb, I would say.

Buy The Other Side of the Island from an independent bookstore near you!


Kelly said...

I love dystopian novels too! Adding this to my list right now...

Jen Robinson said...

I'm glad that you liked it, Sarah. I completely agree with you about the book - it was hard watching Honor make mistakes, particularly in her effort to fit in, but ultimately worthwhile, because she did learn.

I like your Other Side of the Island / Exodus pairing.