Title: Gray Wolf Island
Author: Tracey Neithercott
Genre: YA, mystery, magical realism
Format: eARC via Netgalley
Release Date: Oct. 10th, 2017
Synopsis: Right before Sadie died, she begged her sister, Ruby, to do the one thing she could never do herself: Find the treasure on Gray Wolf Island.
With just a mysterious treasure map as a guide, Ruby reluctantly allows some friends to join her on the hunt, each of whom is touched by magic: a boy allegedly born to a virgin, a girl who never sleeps, a boy who can foresee his own death, and a boy with deep ties to the island. Each of them is also keeping a secret—something they’ll have to reveal in order to reach the treasure.
As the secrets come to light, Ruby will have to decide: Can she make peace with her friends’ troubled pasts and continue to trust them? Can she forgive herself for doing the unspeakable? Deep in the wilderness of Gray Wolf Island, Ruby’s choices will determine if they make it out with the treasure—or merely with their lives.
From debut author Tracey Neithercott comes a darkly compelling tale of profound friendship, adventure, and finding the strength to tell the truth.
Before I get to my review, I just want to say hello friends! I’m still alive, I promise! Senior year and college applications hit me like a truck this past month, and I have had no free time at all. Unfortunately, things are bound to get worse as most of my college apps are due on Nov. 1st, a fast-approaching deadline. So I guess this is me letting everyone know I’ll be on hiatus till then. But hopefully I can make time to still read your beautiful posts!
On to my review! I have to be honest, when I first started this, I didn’t expect much more than a 3-star book. But WOW was I wrong! Gray Wolf Island absolutely blew me away with its mysterious setting, lovable characters, and suspenseful treasure hunting.
Probably the aspect of this book that made me fall completely head-over-heels in love, but I actually expected the least from, is the characters. This book definitely features an amazing group of friends. With a boy that can foresee his own death, a girl that never sleeps, a talented teenage cook born to a supposedly virgin mother, a nerdy bad-boy that loves to spout linguistic facts, and a main character hiding a dark secret, things are never boring. Their interactions are hilarious and utterly seamless, I could’ve read about their trip to the grocery store just as easily as their treasure hunt. Each one is individually developed and fleshed out, none of them fit into a certain YA character stereotype.
The setting is just as captivating, though I have to admit I was creeped-out at times! The island itself is mystical and entrancing, the lush surroundings are described beautifully. But if I were in this story, I think I would’ve avoided the island just like all the towns people! I never trusted that the characters would be safe, I was kept unnerved and on the edge of my seat, waiting for disaster to strike. I think that feeling added a ton to my reading experience, and the author does an amazing job of maintaining those vibes throughout the book. I really enjoyed all the folklore and hints at Native American culture as well, though I can’t speak for the quality of the native rep.
“The sun drips light down the face of the sky, fierce reds and oranges pooling on the surface of the water. For the long moments before the sun dunks beneath the waves, we’re kings and queens with skin like fire.”
Thanks to this book, I need more treasure-hunt books in my life now! Like, REALLY need them! I was instantly intrigued by the poem “map” that the characters must use to find the treasure, and solve each riddle as they go. At times, however, I felt like the characters are able to solve things a little too easily. The ideas seem to pop in their heads about exactly what the poem means and where they need to go, so I was a bit skeptical. But overall, the mystery is still tons of fun.
And the plot twists people, THE PLOT TWISTS! I have to say, I’m usually pretty good at predicting what’s going to happen next, but this book had me fooled till the last page. There are two reveals in particular that still have me reeling.
Yet another thing that I did not expect but completely adored: the romance. In case you haven’t read some of my other reviews, I’m a tough crowd when it comes to romance. It has to be done very well for me to enjoy it, but I can confidently say this book had me swooning. I didn’t know that nerdy bad-boys exist, but if anyone would like to find me one, I would highly appreciate it. Elliott Thorne has officially been added to my (very short) book boyfriend list and I *may* be a tad in love. The romance is well-balanced with the overall plot, and definitely added to the book as a whole.
In addition to the main story line, Gray Wolf Island features an alternate perspective that intertwines with Ruby’s adventure. I really loved how the author managed to bring each plot together at the end, and create eerie parallels between the two for the reader to pick up on. It brought an extra layer of mystery and suspense that made this book hard to put down.
“The truth isn’t sharp or cutting. It’s not the opposite of comfort.
It’s the absence of it.”
Ruby took some warming up to as a narrator, but in the end I grew to love her just as much as the other characters. I also had to push myself past the first 50 pages or so, but once the action started, I was hooked and binge-read most of it in a day. If you’re questioning the magical parts of this book, I would definitely advise you to give it a shot! It reads less like magical realism, and more like spiritual creepiness. Everything is really up to interpretation, but in a way that the plot is still very concrete and easy to follow.
My biggest issue with this book is that there’s not a sequel! I fell completely in love with these characters and now I want to read so much more about them! I’m secretly hoping that the author chooses to revisit this story in some fashion.
Have you read Gray Wolf Island? What are some of your favorite books that involve treasure-hunting? Or a perilous adventure?
Thanks to Random House Children’s and Netgalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!