December 12, 2016 by Zoë
Leilani is in Oahu, away from her home in Hilo, when disaster strikes. Communications with the continental United States go down and the power fails soon after. The Islands at the End of the World by Austin Aslan follows Lei and her father as they try to make it back to Hilo through a world that is rapidly falling to pieces.
Like many, judging from the number of books published each year, I have a soft spot for apocalypse stories. This one is particularly good because its setting is new in terms of apocalypse novels. This isn’t some generic Midwestern town. It’s isolated and filled with outsiders and brings with it a whole new set of challenges, making this story really fresh.
Lei also has epilepsy, and I thought it was dealt with quite well. It’s easy to take a disability and use it as impetus for the character to be So Strong and So Brave, but that wasn’t really the case here. She wasn’t a weak character, either. She was a normal girl who happened to have epilepsy.
Lei also had a supportive, close family, which you don’t often find in young adult books because then the parents will be just too present. I think it’s more realistic to have parents who are around, though, and Lei’s father was certainly around for the whole thing.
First of all, the characters say “Whatevah” way too much. I get that the author was trying to portray an accent (I think?), but it was very annoying.
Secondly, starting somewhere around the middle of the book, the story starts shifting into the science fiction genre. I was fine with this because I want to believe, but I can see this somewhat sudden turn bothering some people.
In terms of plot, I had some issues with the ending. Lei and her father get into the worst spot they’ve faced yet and suddenly it’s all resolved without any action on their part. And then suddenly Lei is Very Important and the key to saving the world. Maybe I just like survival stories more than chosen one stories.
Finally, this is a book written by a non-Hawaiian set in Hawaii. This obviously can be problematic and I don’t know enough about Hawaii to say for sure whether this particular book was problematic or not. There were times when native Hawaiians were portrayed as more in touch with the land, which I did find a bit sketchy. On this point you’ll have to make up your mind for yourself.
I enjoyed this book. It was your standard apocalypse story, but the setting breathed new life into it and made it unique and fun.
“These mountains rose one lava flow at a time. Magma spilled forth, hardened, and then was buried by the next eruption. Jungles grew, burned away, grew again.”