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Island Survival Fantasy | Book Review: Nil by Lynne Matson

Nil is like Castaway but with attractive teenagers and a less probable reason for their arrival.

Book Review: Nil by Lynne Matson

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nil by lynne matson book review

Title & Author: Nil by Lynne Matson

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy – Survival, Science Fiction

Release Date: March 4, 2014

Series: Standalone

Publisher: Henry Holt (Macmillan)

How I Got the Book: Copy via the publisher


“On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have one year. Exactly 365 days–to escape, or you die.

Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing she remembers is blacking out, and when she wakes up, she’s lying naked in an empty rock field.

Lost and alone, Charley finds no sign of other people until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought . . . and so is falling in love. With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that to save their future, Charley must first save him. And on an island rife with dangers, their greatest threat is time.”

Wait, You Got Here How?

Sometimes I read a book and feel like nothing’s happening. Pick it up, put it down. Pick it up again after a day, meh.

That absolutely CANNOT be said of Nil. It’s a non-stop action fest, where kissing or running toward escape or away from island creatures is always taking place. This only drove me to rush through the book, trying to keep pace with the mystery and adventure on the pages.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Charley’s experience on Nil, although I know she didn’t exactly. That was the trouble I had with the book, though. Everything was fine while Charley was one the island, the problem was how she got there.

It’s revealed early on that although it’s mostly a mystery as to how and why only teenagers appear on Nil, those on the island do know that they all arrived via a weird air/heat shimmer that came toward them, rendering them unconscious. When they woke up they were on an exotic beach with no clothes and no idea where they were.

The island residents have also discovered that although the shimmers break down the barriers of space (and logic…), they do not transport teens through time. When you’re on Nil, time keeps on moving along. They know because when a new kid arrives, they ask them what date it was when they left wherever they’re from.

There are SO MANY issues with this I can’t even begin. I can’t talk about some things because I don’t want to spoil anything for you.

I will say that I don’t think as many people will have a problem with this like I did, but I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief long enough. It wasn’t enough to really bother me, though.

I truly did enjoy this novel, but I wished I could have bought the whole story more.

Lots to Like

The things I did enjoy about Nil (any excuse for a bulleted list):

  • Things never felt morbid despite deaths and injuries
  • Teens getting along (for the most part) and helping each other survive physically and emotionally
  • Gut-wrenching suspense that kept me up late reading
  • Standalone read, so rare in YA these days

Not to mention that despite some instalove-ness, I really did enjoy the romance. There’s something about fighting for your life that makes everything seem more and less important. It’s like all your priorities are in place, and I think the author conveyed that desperation and desire very, very well.

Plus, I love accents in books – when done well – and I loved Charley’s Southern drawl. Adorbs.


I enjoyed the idea of a personified island with secrets and surprises up her sleeve. Nil‘s premise made me want to shout out loud at its improbability at times, but I always remembered that 1. this is fiction and 2. all of the books awesome traits like an breath-taking setting and suspenseful fighting for your life scenes made up for the rest.

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.
  • Lisa Schensted

    This sounds like LOST in YA book form and I am ON IT.