Books & Literature

Book Review: Monster Island, by George Ivanoff

MIDDLE GRADE: Jurassic Park meets Stranger Things in a story where the creatures are out of this world!

Action packed and a lot of fun, for young fans of Jurassic Park.
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Feature image credit: Penguin Books Australia

After his mum gets a top-secret new job, 13-year-old Bernie follows her to a mysterious island in the middle of the Bass Strait Triangle. Monster Island, as it’s dubbed by the scientists working there, is not only home to dinosaurs and other extinct creatures, but also creatures that shouldn’t even exist, such as the chupacabra and even the drop bear! Even more strange are the mushrooms growing everywhere.

When Bernie and Ivy, the rule-breaking daughter of Bernie’s mum’s boss, discover hostile drones flying over the island, their adventure quickly turns from wondrous to deadly, as they race to protect the unique flora and fauna of the island.

This action-packed book was a lot of fun from start to finish. The story begins with Bernie stowing away so he can find out where his mum is going, and every chapter raises the stakes a little more. The book feels appropriate for the age group, and would be particularly suited to kids with a special interest in dinosaurs or those who want an exciting book that isn’t too long. The back pages also have some additional mushroom information and some facts about cryptozoology and the other elements in the book, for those who are interested in the extra information.

The focus of this book is on the action much more than on character development of Bernie or Ivy, and therefore they do come across as a little two-dimensional. This is particularly true for Bernie, who seems to have little to distinguish him except for a love and concern for his mum, and an interest in cryptids. As long as the reader keeps the focus on the action, and not so much on the person, this kind of works in an ‘insert-yourself-into-the-story’ kind of way, and it’s not surprising to learn that George Ivanoff is also known for his “You Choose” interactive books, where the reader is very much the main character.

Despite some of the characters themselves seeming a little flat, many of the relationships showed more depth. The friendship between Bernie and Ivy was a great example of a completely platonic, positive friendship between a boy and a girl, and Bernie’s close, open relationship with his mother was another positive parent/child relationship example. Conversely, Ivy has a strained relationship with her father, and that influences many of her choices through the book.

Although much of the science behind Monster Island is not explained in this book (such as the exact purpose of the mushrooms, and what all these creatures are even doing on the island), this is apparently the first in a series, and I expect more answers will be provided in future books.

Overall, this book was fun, with a good dose of action balanced with humour. Recommended for young fans of Jurassic Park, particularly those who may not always be willing to commit to a long novel.

Reviewed by Kristin Stefanoff

The views expressed in this review belong to the author and not Glam Adelaide, its affiliates, or employees.

Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: May 2023
RRP: $16.99

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