Khanh the Killjoy

Death? Tropical Vacation? Same thing.

Nil - Lynne Matson
"If you want, I’ll finish combing your hair.”

I stared at his outstretched hand, totally floored.

I loved getting my hair brushed. More than getting my back scratched, more than getting a massage, more than anything, and I’d always dreamed about having a cute boy brush my hair.

Thad had just served up my secret fantasy on an island platter.

Teenagers trapped on an island "RIFE WITH DANGERS." Oh my. Oh my goodness. Could it be...Battle Royale? Could it be Lost? FUCK YEAH!



I sat on the bed while Natalie messed with my hair. It was the latest surreal Nil moment of the day. Less Survivor, more like America’s Next Top Model, island-edition.

Wait, what?

It's less...

And more...

This was truly an atrocious book. There was no sense of danger, no sense of imminence, despite the fact that death looms if they overstay their welcome on the island. This is mainly because there is such a tremendous amount of insta-love and romance that it overshadows everything else. The book completely fails at creating any sense of urgency because of the utterly silly way the setting and the characters are portrayed.

The book is told from two POVs, a boy and a girl (both of whom fall in insta-love). If you did not read the chapter titles, you could hardly tell which narrator was whom because the male narrator is completely unconvincing as a boy.

The Summary: Charley is a tall, gorgeous girl who thinks she's a "freak show," while in a Target parking lot, she spots a shimmer in the air. Ok, that's weird---but then the shimmer eats her. The next thing she knows, Charley wakes up stark naked on an beautiful island. She is completely alone.

It's ok, she's not naked for long. Conveniently, she finds a pair of clothes, boys' clothes that just fits her perfectly, considering she's a freak show and all.

When all the girls grew curves, I’d just stretched, growing like crazy until I hit six feet. Recently my chest had made a small effort to catch up— the key word there was small— but I still had no hips. The boyish Bermudas were perfect.

Lol, that's funny. Where I come from, we call 6 feet tall and flat-chested "supermodel material."

Meanwhile, Thad is with his peepz in the "City," also on the island. He's talking about this woman--island---thing named Nil. Nil "whispers," at him. She, it, whatever "cackles," in his head. We're not sure what the fuck is going on here. But lo and behold, he finds a girl! Our "freak show" girl. Charley!

Charley thinks she's hideous.

For a second, I saw myself through his eyes: gaunt, sunburned, not a speck of makeup, looking like some six-foot wild child from the bush after twelve days of oceanside camping. I was a tropical freak show.

Thad sees something else completely.

She’d stood on the black sand, chin raised, Kevin’s shorts slung low on her hips and his bandana wrapped around her chest, her dark hair whipping around her shoulders, like a kick-ass character from a graphic novel.

Aaaaaaaaaand cue insta-love!

Life is hard, so hard on the tropical island. It's so dangerous. Lives are at stake. It's terrifying. A complete battle for survival.

Life is so difficult because they have such limited food supplies. You know, because it's a tropical island with temperate weather and everything. Every day is a desperate fight for survival, right? I mean, it's not like pineapples and coconuts are everywhere.

Oh, wait, they are. Pineapples and coconuts are everywhere. They suffer so much, having to eat pineapples and coconuts, fresh from the trees, day in and out.

“Is that breakfast? Something smells delicious.”
“Definitely. I’m guessing roast fish, warm pineapple. It’s a break from yesterday’s roast fish and warm pineapple.”

It's horrifying, really. Teenagers forced to eat freshly caught fish on a tropical island. My heart weeps.

White and flaky, with a hint of citrus, the fish melted in my mouth.

It's such a limited diet, I mean ALL THEY HAVE TO EAT IS SEAFOOD. Luckily, they can improvise. Like plump, sweet shrimps.

Expecting fi sh, I was thrilled to find shrimp. The only thing better would’ve been a big ole pile of cheese grits on the side, but shrimp was shrimp, and this shrimp was good. Plump and tasty, it was seasoned with coarse sea salt and chopped fruit.

And thankfully, they can spice things up with wraps with edible leaves!

It's a tough life, eating freshly caught seafood. The landscape itself is treacherous. Terrifying.

The Cove. Beautiful water as clear as glass, cascading into a black rock pool as cold as ice. Trees with deep green leaves the color of lush magnolias, kissing an Easter egg blue sky, lime green moss clinging to life on damp charcoal rock that will never burn.


Well, um. It's dangerous and difficult, because every day is spent fighting for survival! Right? I mean, there wouldn't be any time for parties or bonfires...

There was a pit in the sand, lined with coals and an honest-to-goodness pig. There was a bonfire surrounded by black rock. Fish and crabs steamed over the fire, and yams baked near the crabs.

Or playing volleyball.

Up the beach, Heesham and Rives were pounding two wooden poles into the sand. A net stretched across the middle. Talla held a green ball; it appeared to be woven from the same green strips I’d tried to fashion a net from on my second week here, only these strips were cross-hatched in a tight pattern, forming a ball.

A volleyball.

Nor would we have time for surfing.

Afternoon, a group of us went surfing. I managed to actually stand up for more than two seconds without falling off.

Or paragliding.

Slowing in the headwind, we glided over the rocks about seven meters off the ground. Jason cruised ahead of me. Landing was its own little rush, not quite like takeoff, but close.

Nor would every single teenager look like they just stepped out of the pages of Abercrombie & Fitch, they wouldn't be CHILLING. I mean, let's be realistic here!

A fire pit wafted lazy smoke into the air. Around the fire, kids laughed and talked. Two shirtless boys were playing catch with a coconut, throwing it like a football, their shoulders and backs rippling under a sheen of sweat. A girl built like a Playboy bunny was sprinting down the beach beside a tall boy with dreadlocks, like an advertisement for island athletic wear. Other kids floated on surfboards past the whitewater.

And surely, they must be more concerned about survival than on relationship drama!

“How do you know I kissed him?”
“Please. I think everyone saw that kiss by the fire. And it’s about damn time.” She smiled.

WELL, FUCK THIS BOOK. The Setting & Premise: The problem with this book is that it creates no sense of urgency whatsoever, because this book is mainly concerned about describing a beautiful island, with beautiful teenagers, with wonderful, fresh foods, and spectacular scenery and heart-rending romance. Everything else is secondary.

The crux of this book is that it's a secret island, with paranormal elements because the kids are being dropped out of thin air. The details are far too slowly given to us: it's not until 1/3 of the book that we've given the fact that the kids have 365 days on the island before they disappear. It could mean death. I didn't give a fuck.

In order for me to believe in the danger, I have to feel that there is darkness lurking beneath the surface of the beauty. There isn't. The island itself is so spectacularly beautiful that it fails to impress on me the idea that it is dangerous whatsoever. We have lovely coves, beautiful scenery, flower fields.

Blue sky shone ahead, and when we broke through the trees, an open meadow burst with color: purples, blues, pinks, reds, yellows, and lots of white. Riding the breeze, the colors shifted in gentle waves.

There are resources in abundance, and it's hard to pity a bunch of teenagers who are feasting on fresh fish, fresh fruits like pineapples and citrus fruits and mangoes, day in and out. Nor is their food limited to that, because they hunt wild games, and occasionally, a pig just walks by to be killed.

They have milk (because conveniently, a cow appears through the portal). They have bread because one of the island inhabitants is a baker (never mind how the fuck they found yeast on the island).

There is no sense of danger because they spend their time doing stupid ass things like making soap.

Soon everything smelled like coconut-lime shower gel from Bath & Body Works.
“Who makes the soap?” I asked.

“Li. She’s crazy good with floral stuff. Her sandsoap’s the best.

And there are convenient things like a motherfucking paper tree. The premise of the island is stupid, it doesn't make any sense because it's not the top priority. It's just a bunch of teenagers who are slightly panicked because there is a deadline, but otherwise, they're enjoying a tropical motherfucking vacation.

Teenagers? More Like Abercrombie & Fitch Models: And speaking of teenagers, the kids in this book are all ridiculously good-looking. From the love interest, who looks like he stepped out of a romance novel.

Blessed with high cheekbones and sandy blond hair that brushed his broad shoulders, he looked like he’d just stepped off the cover of a cheesy romance novel in the grocery store book section.

To the female side cast, who are Swimsuit Illustrated-ready.

“Talla.” Straight blond hair, knockout body. I missed her day
count because I was so distracted by her chest. No one should get boobs and muscles, but Talla had gobs of both.

To the model-material men.

Perfect latte skin, model-worthy dreadlocks, the shade of summer limeade.

Everyone is absolutely stunning in this book.

The Main Characters: I could hardly tell the two narrators apart. The male narrator had such a feminine voice, so overwhelmed by unnecessary romantic observations that were the chapters not titled for the narrators, I would have the most difficult time distinguishing them.

For example, here is a sample of the male, Thad's narrative.

I love you.
The rush of emotion hit me so hard, the words stuck in my throat.
Unable to speak, barely able to breathe, I twisted my fingers in her hair and pulled her lips to mine. Then, breaking away, I held her tight. No words, no expectations, just Charley in my arms and my eyes wide open.

Thad is incredibly emotional, incredibly feminine. I'm not saying that guys do not have a right to be emotional or act feminine, but most female authors write a completely unconvincing male character and this book is no exception.

Charley stepped onto the sand. Wearing Kevin’s shorts and a simple chest wrap, she wore her hair long and loose; it blew around her shoulders, like the first day I’d met her.

Charley herself barely made an impression. Charley is completely useless, until she pulls a hat trick out of thin fucking air. Thad makes a big deal out of Charley surviving on her own, but hello? They're on a motherfucking tropical island with abundant food and shelter material everywhere. Everyone else on the island has done it, too. Charley can't do much more than take care of her own skin. She can't contribute anything to the island and its inhabitants, all of whom have a role to play.

I couldn’t spear fish, weave a stupid net, or make fire. I’d no clue how to bake island bread. At home I made cakes from a box.

That pretty much says it all.

The Romance: It is horrible. Frankly, I expected romance, it is a YA novel, after all, but there is an incomprehensible amount of insta-love in this book. From the first moment, Thad and Charley are captivated by each other. And from that moment on, they never, ever, ever stop noticing how they other smells. How the other looks. How their fart sounds like musical windchimes. Not even 48 hours has passed since the moment they meet, and Thad thinks the sun shines out of Charley's asshole.

Watching Charley smile, I was dying to kiss her.
I fought the urge to wrap my arms around this girl I’d just met less than forty-eight hours ago.

Barely knowing Charley, Thad wants to stay on the island, knowing that it is his death sentence, in order to be with her.

To stay.

To be with Charley, a girl I didn’t know but wanted to—more than I’d wanted anything in months. For the first time since my feet hit Nil dirt, there was something I wanted more than leaving: time. Time without limits, time to get to know the girl who made me feel alive again.

Incessantly, Thad notices Charley's "honey" voice, her "golden eyes." The observations never stop. I just wanted to smack Thad on the head. And let's not forget this horrible, horrible play on Charley's name. The cheesiest hit line ever made. If my name was Charley and a guy tried to sell this line to me in real life, I would sucker punch him in the face after laughing at him.

How to spell Charley's name:

“Tell me how to finish...i-e or e-y?”
“E-y,” I answered.
He chuckled. “So right.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
He said, “Because for your name to end in a lie doesn’t fit. You’re the most real girl I’ve ever met, on or off Nil.”