The silouette of a woman's head in sunglasses in front of a sun over an island. The O in 'solstice' is a skull

About the Book

Title: Solstice
Published: 2020

Cover Story: Spooky
Drinking Buddy: 
Bottled Water
MPAA Rating: PG-13
(cartoonish violence, intense action sequences, alcohol use)
Talky Talk:
Genre Shift
Bonus Factors: 
Schadenfreude, Fyre Fest
Bromance Status:

Cover Story: Spooky

The ominous background, the skull in the title, the featureless face…they’re letting you know this is no Mary Kate and Ashley vacation romp. There were a lot of typos in this book.

The Deal:

Adri has always been a good girl. She works in her parents’ restaurant. She gets good grades. She doesn’t party or run around with boys (not even that Hayden guy who obviously kind of likes her). She’s desperate to have some fun. And it’s not like her parents are trying to run her life. Adri is free to become whatever kind of doctor or lawyer she wants to be. She just has to give up those silly dreams of becoming a reporter.

Adri’s rich friend, Elena, surprises her with tickets to the Solstice Festival. It’s only the biggest, most incredible, most luxurious three-day music event in the world! Held on the exclusive island of Myla, tickets are going for $10,000 a pop! The hottest bands will be performing. The accommodations are nothing short of decadent. It’s going to be a 72-hour binge of music, booze, and sex, and Adri is going to be there!

Of course, Adri’s strict parents would never allow this. She has an internship to concentrate on! But if Adri were to not tell her parents until she got there…heck, how many people are still kicking themselves for not going to the original Woodstock? Opportunities like this come once in a lifetime.

The second she sets foot on Myla, however, things start to look grimmer. For starters, Elena’s jerk ex-boyfriend is there, and apparently they’re back together. And this whole festival seems pretty slipshod. Instead of five star accommodations and sushi bars, there’s old tents and food trucks. And there’s not a musical act to be seen. With no cell service, the concertgoers feel less like they’re at a rave and more like they’re the next stars of The Most Dangerous Game.

Oh, and people start dying. Just accidents, of course. It’s not like they’ve awakened a slumbering horror from the deep…

Drinking Buddy: Bottled Water

Two pints of beer cheersing with a "Denied" stamp over them

Adri suffers from the same trouble a lot of YA main characters have: she just wasn’t memorable. A month from now I’ll be able to tell you the basic outline of this book, but Adri will kind of dissolve into a soup of other teenagers I once read about. It’s a case of the author hoping the plot will carry a generic character.

Adri’s parents are Peruvian, but we get nothing about her heritage or her background. She likes Hayden and the feeling is mutual, but he doesn’t go the festival, so all we get are a few text messages. She wants to be a reporter, but we don’t get a lot of background about that desire, and even worse, we never see her stand up to her domineering parents until the literal end of the world. When your readers put down a book, they should be thinking of the characters, not the plot.

Also, the author created the fictional island of Myla as the setting for the festival. I appreciate that, as it would have been subverting someone’s actual culture to set such a crazy book on a real life island. But the book islanders have no actual culture. I got no sense of whether Myla was more like Jamaica, Cuba, Grand Bahama, or Key West. In the end, it might as well have been Staten Island.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (cartoonish violence, intense action sequences, alcohol use)

Hayden is back in the states, so there’s nothing in that regard. And as for action…

It starts with a vaguely unsettling feeling. Was this concert just poorly-planned, or is something sinister happening? And then the deaths start. Someone ends up as a corpse. Just one of those freak mountain climbing accidents. And why are the locals so evasive about what’s going on? Why does local law enforcement seem so unhelpful? How come everyone is told to avoid the ocean?

Unfortunately, we shift from vague foreshadowing to Cloverfield in a couple of pages. All of a sudden an ageless leviathan is terrorizing the beach and looking at the partiers like a sushi buffet. Adri and her friends have a front row seat to Armageddon. Of course for a reporter, that might not be a bad thing…

Talky Talk: Genre Shift

While the book blurb didn’t hide the fact that this was a supernatural thriller, I didn’t feel it for the first half of the book. Since every guest but Adri was so rich, I couldn’t help but laugh when they were stranded in the middle of nowhere, forced to eat generic hot dogs and go to the bathroom in the woods. In fact, the concertgoers were rather over the top, mentioning their ‘cat nanny’ or complaining that the food didn’t fit their keto diet. I didn’t feel sorry for them when things went south.

But this this slumbering behemoth has risen from the depths and is knocking around yachts like toy boats. It’s everyone for themselves. And it just suddenly felt like I was reading a different book. Personally–and Sandy agrees–the best part of the book was watching helpless rich people flounder around without WiFi. And with a little effort, we could have done without the monster.

Bonus Factor: Schadenfreude

Avenue Q poster

As the cast of Avenue Q tells us, there’s nothing wrong with taking pleasure in the misfortunes of others. And that’s exactly what the first part of this book is all about. Adri would never be able to afford tickets to a place like this on her own, while everyone else scoffs at the 10K price tag. So when the mega rich kids realize they’re probably going to be spending a weekend getting eaten by sand fleas and avoiding a jellyfish bloom while music act after music act cancels, well, there’s a certain justice to that. And if a few dozen trust fund babies are sacrificed to the kraken, well, that’s just the way it goes, isn’t it?

Bonus Factor: Fyre Festival

Rock band playing on stage to crowd

In case you’re not familiar with it, the Fyre Fest was a planned 2017 music festival in the Bahamas. Around five thousand people spent thousands of dollars to attend “An immersive music festival…on the boundaries of the impossible.” As it turned out, the promoters were incompetent scam artists and the attendees arrived on the island to find no music acts, no food, no accommodations, and no way to escape. One of the promoters eventually did time. Not one, but two films were made about the fiasco.

The Solstice Festival was clearly a parody of the Fyre Fest. And like in real life, we get to laugh at the rich kids and their misery. If only there was a word for that…

Bromance Status: Seatmates

Like a mediocre concert, perhaps this book will get better in my memory. But I doubt it.

Literary Matchmaking

Renegade (Elemental #3)

Antony John’s Renegade  is about another island besieged by a terror.

The Troop

The Troop, by Nick Cutter, deals with an island with an overabundance of food…of sorts.

Three Day Summer

For a much better book about a much better concert, try Sarvenaz Tash’s Three Day Summer.

FTC full disclosure: I received neither money nor backstage passes for 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.