#IMWAYR: Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart

imwayr-2015-1Books, books, books.There’s always another book in my to be read stack and on my students’ “want to read” list. Lucky us. Three books I’ve shared over the past three weeks, Beyond the Bright Sea, Orphan Island, and The Girl Who Drank the Moon are being passed around. Friends share books with agreements: I’ll read it in class, you can read it at lunch, and you can read tonight.

9781338157710_mresTomorrow, I’ll handoff  Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart. Students are already slipping me post-its, saying things like, Please put my name on the list for Scar Island. I really want to read it…it sounds amazing! And, it is just that.

Last year, my students and I fell in love with this writer and his action-packed story, Some Kind of Courage. I finished Scar Island Friday night, on the edge of my seat. This tale of middle school-aged “bad boys” is filled with punch-in-the-stomach moments as well as keen lessons to be learned.

They have been sent to Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys for various kinds of bad behavior. The school, a former lighthouse then insane asylum, is run by an evil lot of adults headed by the “Admiral.”  Treated as prisoners/slaves, the boys are housed in rat-infested cells and forced to serve or be severely punished.

Jonathan Grisby believes his crime is so horrible, that he deserves the cruel treatment dished out by the adults. He believes his crime is so heinous that he never speaks of it and fears one of the boys who knows.  It’s a big awful secret.

Despite his horrible deed, Jonathan has a gentle, kind disposition that draws him to the youngest, smallest, and cleverest boy on the island, Colin, a cleptomaniac.  Their relationship is a constant throughout the book. Each depending on the other to save them from their lot.

Early on, the adults get what they deserve: a freak accident that leaves the boys without adult supervision. Any sensible kid would have reported it and gone home. But this isn’t a sensible lot. Sebastian, one of the boys with a mean streak, takes over as the leader. He renames the island saying, the Admiral called them scabs, the ones who  were “picked off and thrown away.” But he sees it differently saying, “We don’t need nobody. ‘Cause we’re Scars now. Scars with a capital S. The tough Scars that got left behind.”

All of the boys have their secrets, but Jonathan has the deepest, darkest one.  Like the Hatch that groans down in the basement of the school. The fear of the unknown prompts Colin’s wise observation, “…maybe, once you know it, it’s not all that terrible after all…Maybe it’s the hiding that makes it horrible, you know?”

I know Scar Island will be read and read and read. Passed among my students with agreements as to when it will be their turn.






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