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It is said that guilt is perhaps the most painful companion of death, but Jonathan Grisby feels he deserves far worse. After a terrible accident that leaves his family in despair, Jonathan takes responsibility for a crime that he did not commit. He is soon sent to the Slabhenge Reformatory School, a place that was once a prison and, in some ways, still is. As time passes on the forlorn island, chaos erupts like magma from the Earth while Jonathan sinks in guilt. Scar Island is a thrilling work, for author Dan Gemeinhart did an exceptional job crafting this story.

The moment he arrived on the island, Jonathan faced his harsh treatment. The head supervisor of the island, the Admiral, kept a firm grip on everything that took place. The boys were forced to take care of every task that needed to be done, leaving the Admiral and his colleagues living in luxury. To ensure their comfortable and extravagant life was eternal, they extended the stay of many boys much longer, excusing themselves by saying, “There’s still more work to do.” Although he faced an excruciating life, Jonathan made a few friends who helped guide him in his new life. Just as he seemed to be getting used to Slabhenge, a strange event occurred on the island. On the second morning of Jonathan’s stay, a brutal storm swept through the island. The Admiral lifted his sword into the air during the morning’s event, completely unexpecting what was about to happen. As all the officials were standing in deep puddles, the outcome was inevitable. They were dead before they hit the ground. By this point, the magma had become lava, seeping through the crevices of the island, melting any form of peace to little more than dust.

While this novel incorporates many thrilling elements, it also contains some meaningful value. Throughout the book, Jonathan struggles with guilt that he doesn’t deserve. In life, you should never blame yourself for things you did not do because it will only cause the downfall of your mental health. As the book goes on, Jonathan begins to understand this, something important for everyone to recognize. 

Altogether, Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart is an excellent book with ideas scarcely found in others of its genre. Author Gemeinhart managed to compose a riveting plot and convey a strong message at the same time, something that made this book a wonderful read. Thus, I recommend this book to the ages of 10-13, as it holds components perfectly suited for those of this age.

Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart. Scholastic Press, 2018. Buy the book here and help support Stone Soup in the process!

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