As someone who loves speculative and dystopian fiction, I was pretty excited to read Lighthouse Island by Paulette Jiles. I know that this genre is rather popular within the YA category, but I prefer more in depth world building, back story and character development. Jiles does not skimp on the character development or world building in her novel.
In the future, the planet’s population has outgrown its resources and water is a scarce commodity. The amount of water a person receives correlates to their socioeconomic standing. The earth is dusty from drought. Cities, now called Gerrymanders, have taken over the countryside and are so large and overcrowded. No one is allowed to use the old names for these forgotten cities and states. Everyone is kept quiet and passive by government produced television shows.
As an orphan, Nadia is close to bottom of the social totem pole. As a child, she dreams of finding a green vacation spot called Lighthouse Island. She secretly carries this yearning as she works meaningless, paper pushing jobs. Until she meets James, a mapmaker and a demolition expert. He’s well connected with plenty of funds to help plan their escape to Lighthouse Island.
First of all, Jiles does an amazing job creating her barren, dusty dystopian Earth. After reading a few chapters, my mouth feels parched with thirst, just like Nadia. In this future, most people do not have access to books, except what is read to them on the government controlled radio programs. Because of their bleak situations and government controls, no one is realizes that they are allowed to dream of bigger and better things. Except Nadia. She realizes that is more to life that what she is currently doing.
The novel isn’t about the dystopian world itself, but more like a coming of age story. Nadia has felt unmoored since her parents abandoned her at a young age. The only happy constant she can find are commercials for Lighthouse Island. When she meets James, she realizes that he’s her ticket to this paradise. As Nadia travels through forbidden cities, she realizes she is much more resilient than she thought. Perhaps she can even allow herself to be loved.
Those who are familiar with the action packed Hunger Games trilogy may be disappointed by the lack of murders and civil unrest that is in Lighthouse Island. It’s a quiet novel that is more about Nadia’s exploration of herself than the dystopian world. Personally, after the long build up to Lighthouse Island, I felt rather disappointed by the ending.
While this novel was not for me, I thought that Jiles’ writing shone in Lighthouse Island. I am definitely interested in reading her other books.
I received an e-galley of the novel for review.