Cover of Nil by Lynne Matson. An island and a bunch of tally marks

About the Book

Title: Nil (Nil #1)
Published: 2014

Cover Story: This Uncharted Desert Isle
Drinking Buddy: Gilligan, The Skipper Too
Testosterone/Estrogen Level: The Mate Was a Mighty Sailor Man, the Skipper Brave and Sure
Talky Talk: This is The Tale of Our Castaways
Bonus Factors: As Primitive As Can Be, Seven(ty) Stranded Castaways
Bromance Status: You’re Sure to Get a Smile

Cover Story: This Uncharted Desert Isle

Nil is an island. There is an island on the cover. So…there you have it, I guess. Less is more.

The Deal:

One minute, Charley is heading to Target to return some clothes. One blinding flash of light later, she wakes up on an island, completely naked. She soon comes in contact with the residents of this island, Nil. There are about fifty teenagers living here, kids from all over the world and from all walks of life. They all arrived in the same way. There are no children or adults here, and nothing physical arrived with anyone. This is a weird ass island, with mountains, volcanoes, snow fields, and violent wild animals that appear to have also arrived via the strange gates.

The kids formed a little society here, one that possibly dates back to the 1850s. They make their own clothes, hunt their own food, survive as best they can. Occasionally a gate randomly opens up and a citizen dives in and goes…somewhere.

Because if you stay on Nil for more than a year, you’ll die.

Drinking Buddy: Gilligan, The Skipper Too

Two pints of beer cheersing

Charley’s just a regular girl from Georgia. At six feet tall, she’s a little awkward, and doesn’t date guys who are shorter than her (your loss, babe). She’s been hurt before, but nothing soul-crushing. And now she finds herself living on this hostile (though strangely beautiful) island, fighting for survival, with a bunch of strangers, including Thad.

Thad is a snow bum from Vancouver, a tall strapping guy who takes a leadership role among the survivors. A nice guy who people gravitate toward. Maybe the next year won’t be so bad. Except Thad doesn’t have a year. He’s been on Nil over ten months.

Charley and Thad narrate alternate chapters, and they’re the kind of people I wouldn’t mind be trapped on a deserted island with. If the ladies from the 1994 Swimsuit Issue were unavailable.

Testosterone/Estrogen Level: The Mate Was a Mighty Sailor Man, the Skipper Brave and Sure

In a truly shocking turn of events, the good-looking, scantly clad teenagers fall for each other. Their Blue Lagoon fantasy, however, takes a hit due to the fact that if Thad doesn’t catch a gate soon, he’s going to die. Also, there’s no birth control on the island, so they have to take cold waterfall baths instead.

Still, these are exciting times: hunting the wild animals, dealing with traitors, Charley trying to work out where the gates will appear next. While I imagine that most sustenance living inovlves hours of carving wooden tools, there’s no reason they can’t take time out for surfing and volleyball.

Talky Talk: This is The Tale of Our Castaways

Hey, we’ve all had the fantasy of moving out to the mountains or the woods or something for a year. These kids are living the dream. If it weren’t for the grim specter of death and all.

The whole mystery behind Nil was well done, with a real Lost/Twilight Zone feel to it. You get the feeling there’s more to this universe than meets the eye (there better be, there’s two more books in the series), but Charley and Thad aren’t privy. Yet.

Still, there were certain things that bothered me. According to shaky records, people have been coming to Nil for over 150 years. And the gates are the only way off the island. But no one back in our world has ever mentioned going to Nil, so…maybe the gates don’t lead back home. But they beat the alternative.

What’s with the ‘man in the maze’ carving? Why are only teenagers transported? Why are there no reptiles on Nil? How are the constellations the same if they’re not on earth? Stay tuned for the next exciting episode. Join us here each week my friend…

Bonus Factor: As Primitive As Can Be

Charleton Heston makes an unpleasant discovery

With absolutely nothing but mammals passing through the gates, the kids are left to their own devices for food and shelter. But they’re resourceful and have shelter, weapons, clothes, and even some luxury goods. Hey, everyone is good at something. And when the girl who knows how to make clothes catches the gate back home, everyone’s happy…but what do we wear now?

Bonus Factor: Seven(ty) Stranded Castaways

Cast of Giligan's Island

This is one of those books with a zillion characters. The laid back surfer. The athletic female. The sniveling coward. The junkie. The religious guy. Some fit into the community, helping the long timers find gates. Others are thieves and liars, trying to snatch the gates for themselves, at the expense of people with little time left. It was a very diverse crew, with kids from all over the world, which occasionally presented a language barrier.

It would be interesting to see how an all teenage society played out. Lord of the Flies or Saved By the Bell Goes to Devil’s Island?

Bromance Status: You’re Sure to Get a Smile

There were a lot of unanswered questions here, but there’s still two books to go. I’m in.

FTC full disclosure: I received neither money nor coconut smoothies for writing this review.


Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.