Echo Island

Echo Island book cover

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Book Review

Four recent high schoolers—Bradley, Jason, Archer and Tim—return from a post-graduation camping trip to their homes on Echo Island. But instead of finding the typical island activities they expect, they find empty streets, empty houses and utter silence. In fact, everyone is gone, as if by the wave of a magician’s wand. And all that’s left are questions.

Plot Summary

If you were to ask Jason, Bradley, Archer and Tim about their friendships, they’d probably say that they were pretty stereotypical. They had been best friends way back in middle school, but sort of drifted apart in the later grades. Other than Bradley and Tim, that is, who are still best buds.

But if pressed, the guys would probably admit that they’ve all grown into being fairly stereotypical themselves. Bradley is definitely the football jock. Tim is an overeating nice guy. Archer would be the too-often-in-his-own-head brainiac. And Jason? Jason is just an average guy: a normal 17-year-old who goes to church youth group once in a while.

Anyway, these used-to-be besties decide to all get together and trek off from their home of Echo Island for a post-graduation camping trip on the mainland. It just seemed like the right thing to do. Sorta like capping off the school years with a camping reunion before they head their different ways for college. They probably wouldn’t be seeing a whole lot of each other going forward, so this was a thanks-for-the-memories trip.

At least, that’s how they thought things would go. But upon completing that not-so-thrilling campout on the mainland and returning back to Echo Island, the boys are met with something really strange: nothing. I mean the town is there, but the streets are empty, the cars are empty, the buildings and homes are empty. Even the air is empty: the boys are surrounded with utter silence.

Not only that, but there’s no power. Batteries don’t work. Engines won’t fire. No telephone, no radio, no clocks. Oh, and the ferry that dropped them off quickly sailed away and doesn’t return.

All of a sudden, these four stereotypical friends find themselves in a not-so-typical situation. They’re trapped together on a totally deserted island. And when one of them has the bright idea of climbing to the top of the island’s lighthouse, the highest point to be found, there’s one other frightening discovery made. The mainland is gone, too.

Jason reminds the guys that this isn’t the time to start panicking. But even he can’t help thinking: if not now, when?

Christian Beliefs

There are no Scriptures quoted or overtly theological ideas discussed here, but by the second half of the book the story takes an odd metaphysical turn, challenging readers to consider what kind of story they’re reading and, for that matter, what kind of story they’re living. There are parallels drawn between a book’s author and, in a sense, the Author of creation. And readers can definitely walk away with thoughts about their own role in their own life story, as well as questions about how they impact the people and the world around them for good or bad.

The teens do eventually meet other people on the island. One of them is a cryptic individual named Jack who declares that he is their guide. They all enter into discussions of life and death. And one of the boys eventually asks if there is a God and Jack replies, “Yes, of course.” We find a few recognizable references to C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia series, as well as Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Other Belief Systems

You can find some scattered references and parallels to some aspects of Greek Mythology as well. Though the references—generally delivered by Jack—tend to be as cryptic as he is.

Authority Roles

There are only two adults in this story. Jack, as mentioned, is an inscrutable sort who leads the teens to think about big-picture ideas. He purports to be there on behalf of “The Author” and motivates his charges to look to how they want to finish their story well. The other adult, named Tereus, is far more focused and purpose driven. He wants the boys dead, plain and simple.

Profanity & Violence

No profanity or foul language of any sort here. There is some drinking, however. After realizing that there are no adults or authorities to be found, Bradley decides to break into a liquor store and grab as many bottles of booze as he can carry. He begins drinking, but is convinced to discard most of his haul in light of other, more important, problems.

As mentioned, Tereus wants to kill the teen guys for his own twisted reasons. He stalks and beats on three of them, kidnapping and binding two. One of the abused guys is eventually killed in a fire that also sears and scars Tereus. Another teen is very badly injured in his conflict with the large man—his wrist broken and crushed and his face and upper body lacerated. Tereus abuses this guy’s injuries as a means to further torture him. A third teen  is thrown around and stabbed with a large knife. The weapon is jammed into his hip “all the way to the hilt.” (The latter two teens survive.)

Sexual Content

Jason meets a lovely teen girl named Beatrice. She becomes key to the latter part of his story. The two hold hands.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for other books at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

There are a lot of situations in this book where the protagonists have to face their own doubts and fears. Would you have responded like they did? What would you have done differently?

The book also talks about being part of a “life story.” If your life is a story, are you a hero? A villain? A secondary character?

What does this book say about changing your story? Can people change? What kind of character do you want to be? And would it make a difference to you if you knew others were reading your story and that they knew everything you thought and the actions you took?

For that matter, who’s writing your story? God? And if God is writing your story, what’s your responsibility in it all?

There are lots of different types of stories. What type of story is your life?

Additional Comments

Echo Island is a different kind of tale that doesn’t fit easily into a typical story type. It’s a book for those who want to think beyond the standard mystery or thriller format. And in that sense, it might be confusing or frustrating for some. Readers should also note that there’s some potentially unexpected and intensely violent moments in the mix.

You can request a review of a title you can’t find at [email protected].

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not necessarily their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Reviewed by Bob Hoose

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