The Other Side of the Island, by Allegra
Goodman; Penguin Young Readers Group:
New York, 2008; $16.99
Imagine living in a world of rules—a world where the first letter of your name is chosen by the year you were born, a world where the weather is programmed each day. This is Honor’s world in The Other Side of the Island, by Allegra Goodman. Honor is born in the eighth year of the Enclosure: a world controlled by the Earth Mother, created after the polar ice caps melted and flooded the old world. There is no visible violence or hardship on the peaceful islands on which the world now lives. As long as one obeys the rules, no harm will come to them. But Honor’s parents do not obey the rules. They ignore the curfew, wade in the ocean, and sing songs. They even have another child, a boy named Quintilian, and keep him. Honor is the only child with a sibling.
As Honor goes to school and learns the ways of the island, she becomes more and more ashamed of her parents. She tries everything she can to fit in, even changing her name to one where the H sound is heard. But, at the book’s end, Honor has learned her lesson. She realizes that being an individual is OK, and standing out from the crowd is what makes a person unique. She realizes that her parents, who are trying to bring down the Earth Mother and create a world where everyone can be different, are really the ones to imitate.
I believe that The Other Side of the Island has a very important lesson to teach. One must learn to follow one’s own heart and be an individual. For example, when Honor realizes that none of the other girls in her class have boys as friends, she quickly abandons her best friend, Helix. When they make up later in the story, Honor realizes that she never should have given up her best friend, despite what others thought.
One of the things I liked most about The Other Side of the Island was that I felt like I could connect with Honor’s character. At one point in all our lives, we wish to fit in. For example, I used to ice skate. Many of the girls with whom I skated went to the same school and were always talking about something that had happened there. Although I sometimes wished that I had more to talk to them about, so we could become better friends, I knew that I had to be my own person and not spend my life trying to be like them. By the end of The Other Side of the Island, Honor too has realized this.
The Other Side of the Island shows what may happen to our world if we do not stop global warming. It is a scary thought and convinced me that we must do something to keep the polar ice caps from melting. The Other Side of the Island also does a great job of showing how individuality matters, yet it is still an adventure- filled page turner. Honor’s character embodies a determined spirit that I loved, and it made me want to keep reading to see what happened to her. Filled with friendship, love, hardship, and sadness, The Other Side of the Island will stay with you even after you have turned the last page.