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The Islands at the End of the World

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Right before my eyes, my beautiful islands are changing forever. And so am I ...

Sixteen-year-old Leilani loves surfing and her home in Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii. But she's an outsider - half white, half Hawaiian, and an epileptic.

While Lei and her father are on a visit to Oahu, a global disaster strikes. Technology and power fail, Hawaii is cut off from the world, and the islands revert to traditional ways of survival. As Lei and her dad embark on a nightmarish journey across islands to reach home and family, she learns that her epilepsy and her deep connection to Hawaii could be keys to ending the crisis before it becomes worse than anyone can imagine.

A powerful story enriched by fascinating elements of Hawaiian ecology, culture, and warfare, this captivating and dramatic debut from Austin Aslan is the first of two novels. The author has a master’s degree in tropical conservation biology from the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

384 pages, Hardcover

First published August 5, 2014

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About the author

Austin Aslan

7 books116 followers
Austin Aslan's debut novel, The Islands at the End of the World, was named a Best Book of 2014 by Kirkus Reviews. It was ranked by The Guardian as a top-ten climate fiction read, and is listed by BookRiot as a top 100 must-read book in the category of young adult science fiction. His latest novel from HarperCollins, TURBO Racers: Trailblazer, will hit bookstores on January 1, 2019.

Austin earned a master’s degree in tropical conservation biology at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. His research on rare Hawaiian plants located on the high slopes of Mauna Loa won him a pair of destroyed hiking boots, a tattered rain jacket, and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. He has lived in deserts, jungles, and cloud forests. He has traveled to all seven continents, and is fluent in Penguin and several dialects of Cave Bat. When he’s not busy child-raising, you can often find him stargazing. Austin lives with his family in the snowy mountains of northern Arizona, a stone’s throw away from the edge of the Grand Canyon.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 437 reviews
Profile Image for Patrick.
Author 59 books230k followers
June 14, 2016
Picked this up on a whim, knowing I'd need a book to read on the plane back from Phoenix ComicCon and was *very* pleasantly surprised.

(To be completely honest, I enjoyed the book so much I kinda failed at being a good dad coming home from the convention. As I kept pulling it out to read, rather than paying attention to my kids like I should.)

It's Young Adult, if that sort of thing matters to you. But it's not bubblegummy or trite. I also really enjoyed the fact that it was set in Hawaii, a location that I don't think I've ever experienced in a novel before. And seeing as I didn't know much about the islands before this, I actually learned a lot about the location.

The tension in the book was also particularly good. Kept pulling me back in but wasn't so strong that it exhausted me emotionally. Good main characters. Smart discussion of what it means to be an outsider. (The main character is half white/half islander.)

Very much enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Jaye.
Author 8 books443 followers
June 4, 2014
Wow. More review to come but this book REALLY did it for me. I'll be thinking about it for a while.

Okay, adding more. This book promised an end of the world adventure and it completely delivered on that. When ocean separates your home town from the town you're visiting, even it if it's only about 50 miles away, things get rough. Aslan portrays a world gone rogue with the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's terrifying and exciting and hopeful all at once. All set against the backdrop of a heavily touristed and lush Hawaii.

What I did not expect from this book, but loved, were the questions of faith, ancient spirituality, and science. All three are given credibility and respect. The crazy ass plot twist toward the end, even nods to the three of these things. This gave this novel so much more depth than your average adventure end-of-the-world book.

The father/daughter relationship is sweet and loving. Leilani is awesome. And Aslan is awesome for so credibly writing a girl!! Plus the writing is fluid and beautiful and smart. And a romance free book, which was a nice change.

This ranks up there as one of my faves of the year.
Profile Image for Celeste_pewter.
593 reviews146 followers
July 29, 2014
Two-second recap:

The Islands at the End of the World is a standout post-apocalyptic debut, sure to win over legions of fans.

Austin Aslan has written a haunting, heart-pounding tale of a young girl and her father, who struggle to find their way home in a rapidly disintegrating island paradise.


Full review:
I'm a big sucker for end-of-the-world stories, so I obviously couldn't resist when I saw The Islands at the End of the World on Edelweiss.

Now that I've actually reading it, I can say with absolute certainty that this is a remarkable debut. In an already very crowded field of post-apocalyptic novels, The Islands at the End of the World's hauntingly beautiful story and unique heroine will make it stand out for all readers.


Things that worked:


Sixteen-year-old Leilani or "Lei" has lived on the big island of Hawaii near Hilo, for the last three years. Her father isn't native to the island, but her mother and maternal grandfather are, and Lei has picked up a considerable amount of local knowledge from them, including her love of Hawaiian culture.

Aslan does a wonderful job of writing Leilani's voice, showing her youthful energy and love for her life on the big island, while also making subtle observations through her eyes on why life in paradise isn't always perfect.

Lei is especially adept at realizing her physical differences and how it relates to her life on the island, including the fact that she will never be fully accepted by the native islanders. (More on this later). She's also very accepting of the fact that her epilepsy is a tough situation for her to handle, but she doesn't limit it from trying hobbies like surfing. She's smart and pragmatic, and readers will undoubtedly admire her immediately.


Like an intricately plotted disaster movie - yes, yes. I know that's kind of an oxymoron, but it's actually an apt comparison in this case! - Aslan gradually begins setting up the end of the world.

He begins by dropping a few sentences here and there at the start of the novel about canceled political meetings and unusual weather, which only begins to build up the tension as Lei and her father (and the reader) begin to realize that things are seriously escalating in the wrong direction.

By the time it becomes apparent that the world has transformed into a place beyond anything the characters recognize, there's no sense of surprise or shock, just a sense of "what now?"

On that note...

The cultural issues:

Even as the world is on the verge of ending, Aslan doesn't hesitate from integrating some significant cultural issues into the storyline.

I was very, very struck by his frank recognition of the fact that community outsiders like Lei's father would be the first to be attacked and killed in an environment where it's everyone for themselves. As difficult as it might be for readers to witness some of these scenarios through Lei's eyes, it's also good impetus for frank discussions on how people react in moments of stress, and also discussions about cultural divides.

Lei's epilepsy:

Even though Lei's epilepsy is the driving force for why Lei and her father leave Hilo in the first place, and is also the motivating factor between several side storylines, Aslan never lets it define Lei in an overwhelming way.

He creates a relationship between Lei's medical condition and Lei's overall personality in a way where we see how she has been limited by the condition, but we also acknowledge her strength and maturity in dealing with something that is far beyond her years - e.g. her decision to use her condition to try and improve her circumstances at a juncture int he novel.

I think that this is an important factor for readers, especially for parents and educators who are looking for books that show all the facets of a character who has to deal with a medical condition like this.

The focus on familial love vs. romantic love:

One of my biggest pet peeves about YA apocalyptic novels, is when characters hook up hours or days after meeting each other in the midst of overwhelming danger. You're outrunning aliens/ghosts/evil spider creatures/something world-ending. When do you have time to kiss and get to know a person?

Which is why I love the fact that Aslan bucks that trend, and focuses on familial love instead. While Lei definitely comes across some cute guys during the course of her journey, Aslan only briefly touches on those interactions as a reminder that yes, Lei still has the innocence of a teenaged girl and there's still hope for the future.

Otherwise, Aslan primarily focuses on the love that Lei and her father feel for their other members of the family, and how desperate they are to get back to them. There's a definite sense of growth as Lei realizes the lengths that her father is willing to go to in the hopes of reuniting the family, and it both enhances and sharpens their family dynamic.

The ending:

Without giving any spoilers away, Aslan has written the type of ending that ties together all of the loose ends of the story nicely, while also leaving readers definitely wanting more. There's a certain degree of maturity to the ending, which I think will be appreciated.


Things that didn't work/Things to consider:

Slight spoilers ahead:

I'll be honest, I was a little confused about the origins of the green clouds. Aslan does a great job of making the clouds seem omnipresent and vaguely menacing, but the effect was a little lost on me as the story progressed.

This might be one of those situations where I was just so immersed in Lei's journey, a lot of the secondary details fell to the wayside for me. I'm definitely going to have to reread the book and see if I have a different experience the second time around.


Final verdict:

The Islands at the End of the World was a beautifully haunting tale about a girl and her father, who are struggling to survive against all odds.

Both Lei's desperate journey to return home while dealing with her epilepsy, and her recognition that even paradise can't protect her from the harsh realities of the outside world, will absolutely move readers and keep them thinking what they would do in a similar situation. This is very much an unusually beautifully post-apocalpytic tale with a lot of heart, and will definitely stand out from the other tales of the genre.

I highly recommend this book for YA fans of all ages, but especially for educators and parents who are looking for books with characters who deal with personal health problems in a positive and constructive way. Even though Lei will likely to be the first to admit that it really, really sucks having epilepsy, her handling of her medical condition shows a maturity and profundity which I think will be admired by all.

As for me, Austin Aslan has become of my favorite new debut authors. I'm going to be waited for The Girl at the Center of the World with bated breath, and in the mean time, I'll definitely be shouting from the rooftops to everyone I know, about The Islands at the End of the World.
Profile Image for Kels.
315 reviews165 followers
September 9, 2015
I've been scavenging my library in search of a YA novel set in modern Hawaii, rooted deeply in the culture with vivid imagery and interspersed with Pidgin (the local Hawaiian slang) to better familiarize myself with this Paradise Island and the people who are fortunate to call it home (call it a personal project, if you will). Thanks to the lovely Zoe for recommending this awesome book. I got exactly what I was looking for and so much more!

The Islands at the End of the World is intelligently and boldly crafted. Austin Aslan does a wonderful job of infusing Hawaiian culture and lingo, as well as vivid imagery into the story that brings Hawaii conveniently to your doorsteps. But what really impressed me is how well thought out and executed the plot was. I mean, WOW. This novel blew me away and really made me think of just how electronically dependent the world is, and the amount of MASS chaos that would erupt if our control of electrical energy was ever disrupted. I'M TALKING ABOUT THE APOCALYPSE, PEOPLE! Nuclear reactors melt down resulting in nuclear fallout, water/sewage networks worldwide shuts down resulting in water shortage and contamination, satellite fails, lights go out, aircrafts fly blind, lose altitude, and ultimately crash and burn, internet vanishes (GOSH NO), mobiles, computers, radios, televisions go off, manufactured goods become strained, end of global communication, confusion, illness, mayhem, and violence takes over!!! And Austin Aslan builds this all so realistically. He layers it on in a way that seems scarily true-to-life, and each surmounting challenge that Lei and her father faced had me at my wits ends. He had me seriously thinking: Like, maybe it would be a good idea to start stockpiling guns, nonperishable goods, and other supplies and toiletries. You know, just in case.

And what I absolutely adored about this novel is its focus on family. Lei and her father were such a phenomenal duo, and I rooted for them with all that was in me. There survival skills were something to admire, yet they managed to hold on to their humanity. Some of the dangerous challenges that they had to overcome were disturbing and gruesome, but once again, so frighteningly realistic. Their connection and love for each other is powerful and inspiring. It's typical for YA to be cluttered with unnecessary and underwhelming or just over-the-top romances, and it's so refreshing that Austin Aslan chose to omit that and focus on something just as compelling: family.

My one negative would be the ending, which kind of lost me. I mean, I get it, but I don't know, it just kind of seemed a little out there (and maybe even a little bit silly to me), but I have to remind myself that this is speculative fiction that incorporates mythology that I'm not all that familiar with.

So yep, this novel surprised me in so many ways. If you're looking for something fresh, innovative, with a creative plot, superb world building, and well developed characters in the YA genre, then your search stops here. :)
Profile Image for Skip.
3,223 reviews394 followers
September 21, 2014
4.5 stars. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it. It was dystopian, but with some mysticism thrown in too. Reminded me a bit of Alif the Unseen, but without the romance. A meteor strikes creating a celestial anomaly (the “Green Orchid”), shutting down all electrical appliances, communications, and technology worldwide, stranding Leilani and her father on Oahu, away from their home on Hawaii. To survive and get home, they must revert to survival skills, alone and disconnected from the rest of the world. Leilani is a strong character, but feels like an outsider because she is half-Hawaiian and half-white and suffers from epilepsy. Good writing, with a credible plot, facing tremendous obstacles, the scope of which are largely unknown. For the same reasons, we mainlanders watch Hawaii Five-O in spite of the horrible acting, the descriptions and imagery throughout the novel were amazing. Aslan integrated in facts about Hawaii (culture, economy, history, and environment) in a seamless manner. Note: Based on the excerpt, I am somewhat concerned that the sequel may revert back to more standard YA fare.
Profile Image for Melissa Colby.
465 reviews2 followers
August 28, 2016
Dear Mr. Aslan,

You have fully succeeded in fulfilling the stereotype of a presumptuous mainlander who thinks they know Hawaii enough to write about it and have confirmed "Those who can't do, teach." Rarely do teachers make good writers. Stick to science. That's probably what you should have stuck to this whole book because you don't do Hawaiian culture, military culture, geography, or literature well. Your errors were glaring.

1. Kaneohe MCB does not take up most of the east side of Oahu. It is small as is their military presence. You limit Oahu to blood hungry military guys and Waikiki.

2. Never refer to a Private as an Officer. Big mistake. It just went to show how uneducated you are about the military and how you do not have the right to hold an opinion on anything military related. You just embarrassed yourself...terribly.

3. North Shore. Capitalize it. Please. Mahalo.

4. Everyone is called uncle.

5. There are two mountain ranges on Oahu, not one.

6. Were you hoping this book would become popular for Young adults? Fat chance. You lost it when you have them smoking pot in the mountains. Yep, can't have that book in my classroom. Plus, the good father-daughter relationship you worked so hard to create and was at one point a redeeming factor of the story is suddenly less meaningful.

7. You aren't Hawaiian. Neither am I. Write about what you know. That's the big number one to writing a powerful book. Aliens and Hawaii were too big of a chunk to bite off.

I read this book all the way to the end just so I could write this review in good conscious and know that there were no redeeming factors.

In conclusion, this is probably the most upset I have ever been after reading a book. Thanks for the new experience.

A disappointed reader who is still waiting for the great Hawaiian novel
Profile Image for Trisha.
4,534 reviews156 followers
December 10, 2014
"We're all werewolves under a green full moon."

Wow, what a huge disappointment.
I have to admit, this cover totally sold me on wanting to read this. THEN, add into realizing it's a apocalyptic event and YOU ARE STUCK ON A SMALL TOURIST HAWAIIAN ISLAND!! I mean, come on, this is the perfect set up for a nightmare situation! And it was really good. Horrific and crazy and just...I enjoyed the story until about....270 pages in

Now, through out the book, there are some hints that this is going to take some kind of turn in the story. That this isn't strictly an apocalyptic event type book...but that we're going to get into fantasy/mythological realms.

And WOW, when we cross that line.. HUGE SPOILER

So sad because this had such potential. I won't read book 2. ever.
Profile Image for Sally906.
1,363 reviews3 followers
March 10, 2015
Most people think of Hawaii as a holiday destination but for Leilani and her family it is home. Leaving the rest of the family on the Big Island, THE ISLANDS AT THE END OF THE WORLD opens with Leilani and her father travelling to Honolulu on the island of Oahu for medical treatment. Leilani has epilepsy and the specialist wants to try an experimental drug on the sixteen-year-old to try and bring her fits under better control. Not long after their arrival a global disaster strikes – power fails across the world and almost at once power dependent technology no longer works. The end starts innocently; against the background of the main characters chatting to each other there are TV reports about a missing US president, other world leaders not being in the public eye, and then a televised announcement to the nation by the President is cut off mid-sentence before he can announce whatever it is he was going too.

Now Hawaii is cut off from the rest of the world as there are no communications, no power and planes aren’t working either. Tourists gradually become aware that they are not going to be able to get home, and locals who want the tourists gone are forced to start learning traditional ways to survive very quickly, battles break out between the two groups. Very quickly there is a decent into anarchy. Leilani and her father naturally decide to travel back to their home island and join the rest of their family, but that’s not easy when there is no transport, no communication, Leilani is having fits, there are people wanting to kill them and Tsunami’s, caused by god knows what, hitting the coastlines. On top of this there is a strange green glow in the sky that looks like a giant orchid.

As the story follows the edge of the seat adventures of Leilani and her dad the reader gradually learns what may be happening in the world – and eventually what may just stop it all. The answer to how to stop the end of the world seems far-fetched and is linked to Leilani. She herself rejects as simply to ludicrous when it is first mentioned to her, but fear of what may happen to her and her family results in her being open to anything. Certainly the reality is that with the end of power nuclear power stations are going to start melting down all over the world releasing tons of radiation into the air.

THE ISLANDS AT THE END OF THE WORLD is a blend of ecology, Hawaiian mythology and technology dependence. The overall scenario of something happening in the world at a political level followed by a sudden loss of power globally resulting in loss of technology and basic resources is horrifyingly plausible. I would like to think that survivors would not descend into chaos and violence quite so quickly – but you see how people do anything to survive in just a local flood or cyclone, so understand that often, at its base level, human nature is out for self-preservation. Leilani and her father were nice people – who sometimes had to do not nice things in their struggle to get home. When I say not nice – they stole food and supplies and protected themselves when threatened. Not something they would have done under normal circumstances. Leilani is also worried about her condition when her medication runs out. And finally a YA dystopian with no central romance – oh Leilani likes boys, but when the world is falling apart around you, you just want your mum, and it the love of family which drives Leilani and her dad. Overall author Austin Aslan has done a magnificent job of combining mysticism, mythology and science and I can’t wait until the release of the follow-up book ‘The Girl at the Center of the World’ – there is a teaser chapter for the final book at the end. Speaking of the ending most of the lose ending from the story are tied up just leaving the main lead into book two. I am really looking forwards to how everything is tied up and if the world will be saved.
Profile Image for April.
13 reviews2 followers
December 9, 2013
Fresh, exciting, and filled with the fiery legends and wonder of Hawaii...what a setting! Very impressed with Aslan's expert use of imagery, Leilani's character (I love a strong female lead), and the powerful relationship between father and daughter. A great story. I loved it! Can't wait for the next one!
Profile Image for Krystle.
872 reviews337 followers
January 4, 2015
Profile Image for Zoe.
406 reviews939 followers
June 24, 2022

Wow! To be completely honest, I sincerely did not know what to expect from author Austin Aslan's debut novel The Islands at the End of the World. But I am coming away sincerely impressed and slightly even terrified with this stunningly original debut.
Right before my eyes, my beautiful islands are changing forever. And so am I ...
Hawaii. To most people, it's a vacation spot. But to 16-year-old Leilani, a passionate surfer and epileptic, it's home. When Leilani and her father travel to the island of Oahu, they're not prepared for what happens next. Suddenly, Hawaii is cut off from all technology and electricity; and people are forced to resort to traditional methods of survival. As the two of them embark on a dangerous cross-country journey to get back to their homeland, Leilani realizes the power to stop this crisis may just be inside her.

One of the things I absolutely loved about Aslan's novel was his ability to incorporate Hawaiian mythology and ecology into the story. Hawaii has such a fascinating and beautiful culture, and it really plays a big part in the lives of the people who live there. I felt Aslan did an absolutely incredible job incorporating this culture and it's mythology into the story in a way that made sense.

Character-wise, I found this to be incredible. While Leilani definitely isn't a perfect protagonist, I found her to be relatable and well-developed. You could really feel her pains and her struggles throughout the story, and it was so easy to empathize with her. From her feeling of not belonging on the island she lives on because of her race, to her maturity and determination, she'll truly worm her way into your heart.

Most YA books being published nowadays seem to be bombarded with things such as love triangles and instalove. Thankfully, The Islands at the End of the World does not have either of those two things. Rather, it takes a different route and focuses on another fundamental value: the power of family. The relationship between Leilani and her father throughout the novel is truly a powerful one, even if it isn't perfect. You can truly feel how much they love and care for each other.

If you want to be transported to the beautiful island of Hawaii as it turns into an terrifyingly realistic post-apocalyptic wasteland, give The Islands at the End of the World a try. It won't disappoint.
Profile Image for Beth Cato.
Author 107 books484 followers
October 1, 2014
I love a good post-apocalyptic story. This one's a little different: it actually starts with the disaster and continues from there, and wow is the tension high. Aslan uses the setting of Hawaii to create a fantastic drama that's even profound because the human reactions are so plausible. Leilani and her father leave their home on the Big Island so she can begin a new experimental drug treatment for her epilepsy in Honolulu. The flight is no big deal--40 minutes. However, as soon as they arrive, all hell breaks loose. The president goes into hiding. Electricity fails. A strange green phenomenon fills the night sky. As Honolulu fractures into tourist versus native versus everyone violence, Leilani and her dad fight to get home. It's terrifying and feels grounded in facts, though there is a heavily science fiction element that's important through the ending.

Leilani is a great heroine. She's very much a teenage girl relying on her dad, but she's also strong and matures a great deal through their travails. Her epilepsy added a lot of tension: the way that stress triggers grand mals, the dangers of aspartame (even as they are starving), her limited medicine, and the peculiar way her seizures change after the apocalypse occurs. All of the characters are well-drawn. Her dad is great.

Hawaii adds a lot to the book with its geography but also with its mythology. Leilani's heritage helps her through everything. For a lot of kids, this would be a great primer for learning about Hawaiian mythology and what life on the islands is really like beyond the tourist traps. Though I confess, if I ever vacation in Hawaii now, this book will very much be on my mind. I might stockpile granola bars.
Profile Image for Jenny.
908 reviews181 followers
February 4, 2015
I'm having trouble deciding on this book. On the one hand, I flew through it. It was immensely entertaining, and reminded me of Ashfall by Mike Mullins in a lot of ways. I also loved that it was a dad and his teenage daughter trying to survive, and there was no romance going on at all.

My issue was with the ending a bit. Things got a bit too incredible to believe for me...although it was an original, unique idea, and could happen...but a lot of it seemed too convenient, especially with the MC, her grandfather, and the Sheriff. If you read it, you'll see what I mean.

But for entertainment value, I do think it deserves 4 stars, despite some of these issues!
Profile Image for Evie.
696 reviews921 followers
August 15, 2014
The Islands At The End of the World is a truly remarkable debut novel. A powerful and harrowing tale of perseverance and the desperate search for safety and loved ones in a world rapidly falling apart.

Leilani is half-Hawaiian. She lives with her parents and younger brother on the Big Island of Hawaii, struggling to belong and not feel like an outsider. She's epileptic, and at the beginning of the story she travels with her dad to Oahu to undergo medical testing for her illness. That's when odd things start happening, rendering Leilani and her dad cut off from the rest of their family and unable to return home. First, some unidentified celestial being in the shape of an orchid appears in the sky (only visible at night), then all the electronics stop working, meteor showers rain down on Earth, big waves rip into the land and the world starts tumbling down. No one knows what's causing it, no one knows how to stop it, how to fix it, how to get the situation under some sort of control.

The Islands At The End of The World combines a blood-chilling, terrifyingly plausible apocalyptic scenario with richly imagined, beautifully rendered exotic world of the Hawaiian Islands. Austin Aslan does a marvelous job making the plot line appear painfully realistic and, therefore, completely breathtaking, weaving in some truly fascinating Hawaiian mythology, unique language and culture. The idea behind the story might not be entirely new, but it's certainly done well. Thanks to Aslan's captivating writing style and his extensive knowledge about Hawaii, its indigenous people, and their lives, this book really shines.

As far as characters are concerned, both Leilani and her dad are very real and believable as characters. They seem very down to earth and unremarkable, but their strong bond and willingness to sacrifice for one another makes them relatable and worth carrying about. Leilani's dad was particularly interesting to follow, what with all the surprising ideas he had and his unique way of handling things. After all, it isn't often you come across a parent in the YA literature who Yes, Leilani's dad was very different from what you'd usually see in YA novels. I definitely liked him.

Leilani herself is a strong heroine. She never quite felt like she belong anywhere before, partly because of her origins, but also because of her sickness. And yet her love for Hawaii and it's culture is apparent and inspiring. Despite the way Hawaiian people treat her (as an outsider), she feels a strong connection with her Hawaiian heritage and is determined to nurse it.

The Islands At The End of the World is not a very past-paced book, but it's certainly intense and compelling. It wasn't a one-afternoon kind of read for me, but I enjoyed every moment I spent in this gorgeously rendered, vivid world. Plus, this book really scared me. I'm seriously considering stocking up on iodide pills and building a nuclear bunker somewhere up in Alaska. Read it, if you dare.
Profile Image for Aeicha .
832 reviews100 followers
August 13, 2014
There are so many end-of-the-world-post-apocalyptic-of-hell-the-world-has-gone-crazy books in YA and, while Austin Aslan’s The Islands at the End of the World doesn’t bring anything earth shatteringly new to the genre, it does offer a thrilling and unique story.

Leilani lives on the Big Island of Hawaii, but she and her dad travel to Oahu, where she will undergo tests for her epilepsy. While in Oahu, a mysterious light appears in the night sky and the world’s electronics fail. Cut off from the world, with a dwindling food supply and rampant fear, the islands of Hawaii descend into martial law and madness. Leilani and her dad begin a perilous journey back home, uncovering startling revelations along the way.

The Islands at the End of the World is an intense, completely addicting read with an immersive setting, frighteningly plausible plot, and refreshing twists. The idea of electronics failing worldwide, causing mayhem and destruction, is nothing new, but when combined with the lush Hawaiian setting and rich lore, the premise becomes exciting and new again. The Islands at the End of the World isn’t explosive or in your face, instead its intense atmosphere and twisty plot unravel slowly and realistically. We are given a chance to really get to know our heroine and the Hawaii she loves. And Aslan beautifully lays out this paradise world. Everything about Hawaii, from its ecological make-up, culture, people, myths, and lore, is deftly explored. The chaotic post-apocalyptic world Leilani finds herself in never feels forced or outlandish. I love that Aslan chose to set his book in this rarely used setting, as its isolation and difficult terrain make for such a thrilling, full of possibilities landscape.

I really enjoyed getting to know Leilani and her father and journeying with them as they desperately try to get home to their family. I love how very average and believable these two are. They definitely have their talents and skills, but for the most part, they are just two everyday people who find themselves in an impossible situation and must do things they never thought themselves capable of. Like me, readers will easily relate to these two, and many of the people they meet along the way, and become greatly invested in their story.

Leilani and her father’s journey home is often startling and addictively dark, full of violence, death, wonder, and hope. Aslan sprinkles some truly heart-pounding and breathtaking moments throughout The Islands at the End of the World that had me on the edge of my seat, furiously turning pages. And I totally didn’t see some pretty epic and fascinating twists that Aslan throws at readers!

My Final Thoughts: The Islands at the End of the World is an entertaining and often thought-provoking read, with a captivating and impressively crafted setting; intriguing plot; and well-written characters. I greatly enjoyed book one and excitedly await book two!
Profile Image for Sara.
433 reviews3 followers
March 7, 2015
Copied from the review I did of this book on the library's Teen Tumblr page:

I have to admit, even though they’ve basically saturated the market, I still can’t resist a good dystopian novel. Even better, a well done post-apocalyptic book. But possibly the BEST, and hardest to find — a great book about the apocalypse at its inception. I can’t resist reading about the BEGINNING of the end of the world.

So I was ridiculously happy to find this book: Islands at the End of the World by Austin Aslan. It’s set in Hawaii (which would be a really scary and isolating place to be during the apocalypse), and is about a girl named Leilani who happens to be epileptic. She lives on the Big Island, but in order to try out a new experimental medicine, she travels with her father to Oahu. While they’re in Oahu, everything goes insane. Satellites stop working. The internet goes away. No one knows what’s going on, but EVERYONE is freaking out. Planes stop traveling between the islands, and everyone is terrified. And Leilani and her dad have to figure out how to get home.

Aslan does a REALLY great job of creating an atmosphere of intense suspense — it was one of those, “Well…just ONE more chapter before I go to sleep…” books. I also really loved how you never knew more about what was going on than the characters did. Leilani and her dad have no clue why the power has gone out and no one’s cell phones are working? Neither do you, as the reader. I also knew next to nothing about Hawaiian folklore and mythology before reading this, and there’s a lot of cool Hawaiian spirituality and stories in this book. I felt really steeped in the culture of Hawaii while I was reading, and am now really intrigued to do some research to learn more about it.

Also exciting, there’s a sequel coming out (called The Girl at the Center of the World), but we’ll have to wait ‘til next August. Boo!
Profile Image for maryann ★.
78 reviews
September 14, 2014
When the supercontinent of Gondwanaland was just breaking apart, the turtles would simply swim across a narrow strait, lay their eggs, and head back home. Over the next hundred-or-so million years, the continents drifted apart, about an inch a year. The turtles went about their business, doing what they used to, what their parents used to do, each generation unaware of the imperceptible change. Now they cross oceans. And they'll be here still, following their ancient paths, inch by new inch, long after we're gone.

I thought it was a well-conceived and realistic take on "end of the world" as a subject. It's also one of the very few novels I've read that examined relationships between fathers and daughters, and for one I am glad that the protagonist, Leilani, wasn't a whiny teenager who hated her parents. Or maybe that's a default for Hawaiians, because, you know, ohana.

On that note, the author put so much history and background of Hawaii that I would have still probably read it sans the science fiction and dystopia themes. Hawaii has such a rich and colorful mythology, and a lot of those ancient stories and wisdom were incorporated into the story of Leilani as she and her father navigate the islands of Hawaii while the world falls into chaos and despair, following the appearance of what was later coined as the "Green Orchid", a cosmic phenomenon that reverted the civilization to its most basic - no power, no gas, no telecommunications, no electricity. The ripple effect of nature correcting itself was heavily discussed here, that's why I mentioned it was a realistic take, because, once the power is out, what's one frightening thing that could happen? Yes. A Nuclear Reactor meltdown.

This book is also equal parts scientific and spiritual, the author made sure that Leilani is more than your average teenager (an epileptic teenager, but still). Although half-Hawaiian, you will find her constantly speaking to her Hawaiian Gods as she makes sense of what's happening around and within her. And like a normal teenager, she's very concerned about belonging. She's wary of the looks that natives throw her as they scrutinize her skin color, always struggling to convince others that this is her home too. Regardless of her insecurities, however, I think Leilani's mature way of handling her medical condition is most admirable, and it's very important for younger readers to see that. Eventually all those things that make her different will propel her to move forward and fulfill her fate.

There is also something beautiful and almost heartbreaking about her bond with her family, especially with her father. Their journey from Oahu back to Hilo to reunite with their family without the surest knowledge of the other party's survival was in the least painful to read, and the author saw to it that it was not a peachy ride back home. I especially loved those little moments where they found humor despite the hopelessness of their situation.

And when Leilani shares little stories like this one:

There was a widower in Hilo who lost his wedding ring in the Wailuku River. He returned to the pool where it had slipped off his finger every afternoon for ten years, driving, swimming, sifting, endlessly turning over stones. He breathed his last one fall afternoon, suffering from pneumonia, and was buried next to his wife without the ring. I couldn't understand his compulsion then. Now I do. There are some things you never give up on, no matter the odds.

Whether you're in for the dystopic or scientific elements, for the thrill, or for the culture of Hawaii, or for family relationships, there is something for every type of reader in The Islands at the End of the World and I'd like you all to give it a try.
Profile Image for Jessica .
2,014 reviews12.8k followers
August 17, 2014
I normally don't read books about the apocalypse, but this one sounded intriguing being set in Hawaii with a 16-year-old epileptic main character. I knew going into this one that it was going to be a unique read, but I definitely have never read a book as powerful, emotional, and desperate as The Islands at the End of the World.

16-year-old Leilani wants nothing more than a normal life, which is pretty hard to do as an epileptic half-white, half-hawaiin living on the big island of Hawaii. Leilani has felt like an outsider at school and only finds relief surfing, which her epilepsy has made dangerous to do. Leilani and her dad decide to go to Oahu to test a drug to treat her epilepsy when global disaster strikes and every electrical device and mode of communication shuts down. Leilani and her father embark on a dangerous journey that tests their strength both mentally and physically as they attempt to find their way back home to the rest of their family on the main island.

Have you ever wondered what it be like when the world was ending? When all communication is cut off and there's no electricity, appliances, or personal electronics? Well, Austin Aslan made those questions a reality for Leilani and let me tell you, things got crazy. Under extreme situations, the true side of people comes out and not everyone is inherently good. No, Leilani and her father encountered very scary people who are either power hungry or only cared about themselves. They tried surviving both on their own and under control of the military throughout their journey, exploring the many different aspects of survival during a global disaster. The situations they faced were downright frightening and I was completely drawn into their perilous journey towards reuniting with their family.

The only problem I had with this story, though, was the family Leilani was so desperate to get back to. Leilani would talk about how much she missed her mother brother, grandfather, and best friend, but I didn't really feel her immense connection to them when they were together in the beginning of the novel when life was normal. I wish we had gotten a bit more of their "before" life and understood just how connected Leilani was with her family so that we could become connected with them ourselves. When it came to Leilani's father, though, we were able to witness her deep love and connection to her father as they both tried to survive a world that was completely hopeless and desperate.

Overall, this was a great novel that dealt with the apocalyptic storyline. I loved how it was set in Hawaii, an environment I am not familiar with at all and rarely read about. Leilani was so proud of her Hawaiian heritage and it was interesting to learn the culture differences and stigmas that were present there. While I was a little skeptical of the sci-fi elements at the end of the novel when Leilani was convinced that her epilepsy uncovered answers about the mysterious things going on, I really enjoyed the complexity of the story and how the author backed the sci-fi elements up with actual scientific facts that kind of made sense to the reader. If you want a very unique, emotional, and distressing story about a global disaster occurring while trapped on an island with no communication to the rest of the world, you should definitely check out The Islands at the End of the World.
Profile Image for Stephanie Ward.
1,173 reviews115 followers
August 19, 2014
'The Islands at the End of the World' is a dynamic young adult dystopian novel about what would happen to people living on an island or islands - like Hawaii - if a global disaster struck. This is precisely what happens in the novel, and our main character Leilani and her father must revert to survival skills in order to return home to their family. It's a fascinating take on the apocalyptic/dystopian genre that makes you think about things in the world differently.

I have to start by saying that this book was fantastic and a complete breath of fresh air into the dystopian genre. Most novels that deal with the end of the world or a dystopia are centered somewhere inland; whereas this book is set on the islands of Hawaii. Before reading this story, I hadn't really thought about what would happen to people living on an island if a global disaster should occur. It would be completely nightmarish - being alone and disconnected from the rest of the entire world. Shedding light on this possibility was obviously part of the author's point - and it was an intriguing one that made me really sit back and think about it.

Our heroine, Leilani, feels like an outsider in her own world. She's half-Hawaiian and half-white with epilepsy on top of that. It was easy to identify with Lei right from the beginning of the book. Who hasn't felt different or left out at least once in their lives? She's a fantastic heroine for the book - smart, strong, determined, and a fighter. It turns out that what made her an outsider might just be what saves them all. I loved watching Lei's character grow and mature throughout the book as she grows into her self and assumes responsibilities and trials that she never imagined. The plot was sensational - as I said before. It really hits on ideas and possibilities that never occurred to me and it is completely unique in the dystopia genre. The writing is magnificent with a fast pace that had me reading as quickly as I could to see what was going to happen next. The descriptions and imagery throughout the novel were incredibly vivid. I felt like I was right beside Lei the entire time, experiencing each situation - good and bad - with her. I loved how the author put in facts about Hawaii - it's culture, economy, and setting. I loved learning everything that I could about the islands and I think that adding in those elements really gave the book a depth that it wouldn't have had otherwise. I'm hoping that these interesting tidbits about Hawaii and other things are expanded on in the sequel. Overall, this was a really thought provoking novel that also combines several genres - such as action, science fiction, dystopia, and adventure - to create a wholly original and unique story that has something for everyone. I highly recommend it to those who enjoy the dystopian genre as well as those wishing to read something new and exciting. I'll definitely be reading the sequel as soon as it's released!

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Joshua.
11 reviews3 followers
September 30, 2014
The market is glutted with post-apocalyptic stories told in first-person by plucky female protagonists. Divergent, Matched, Hunger Games... they all start to blend together, regardless of their individual merits.

But this one's different. It's not set in some strange future where society's reorganized itself by improbable rules, but in the present-day, as the world comes crashing down around young Leilani and her family in Hawaii. It has a strong sense of place, with vivid descriptions of the lush scenery contrasting with Leilani's desperate struggle. It's so deeply ingrained in Hawaiian myth and culture that it couldn't take place anywhere else.

Leilani is a remarkable creation. You never get the feeling that she's some 35-year-old man's idea of how "kids these days" act. She's sarcastic, smart, strong, and capable--but she's also capable of making bad decisions, of being foolhardy, and not immune to despair. In short, she leaps off the page as a fully-formed, utterly believable and relatable character. Leilani's father also gets a sympathetic, fully-fleshed-out treatment: he's no distant authority figure or idealized archetype. He's just as scared as Leilani, capable of acts of heroism and cowardice.

This book will grab you in the first twenty pages and won't let go. It deftly intertwines the survival-horror of Leilani's journey with the central mystery of what is causing the catastrophe, a mystery that touches on faith, science, science fiction, and ecology. By the time it all snaps together for the intensely satisfying conclusion, I was in tears.
Profile Image for Katherine Cowley.
Author 6 books177 followers
May 7, 2015
I am now afraid that the Apocalypse will happen when I'm Hawaii next month. Because seriously, Oahu is not the place to be. The most populous island in Hawaii, Oahu imports something like 90 or 95% of its food. So when the crisis comes, things won't look pretty.

I loved this book. I was not in the mood for an apocalyptic, dystopian novel, and I loved it anyways. A good sign for the writing.

What worked for me:

-Strong main character with weaknesses (epilepsy, among other things). Also, great father-daughter relationship. That's the real relationship of the novel.
-My favorite part was the integration of Hawaiian culture, language, beliefs, and mythology. Beautifully done, and connected great to the story. It made it a lot more meaningful to me, and now I want to learn more about Hawaiian culture and traditions.
-I love a good adventure story. And adventures abound.
-Even though there is brutality and the worst of humanity (a common trait of apocalypse stories) there is also the best of humanity. In every situation, there is someone who is kind, and that brings redemption to the novel.
Profile Image for Kim.
39 reviews1 follower
August 20, 2014
With all the post-apocalyptic YA fiction out there, it's easy to overlook newer books of the same genre. I have to say that I am glad I didn't overlook this one! Really neat and creative premise, and it definitely capitalized on the fear and concentrated chaos that happens in the islands whenever a tsunami or hurricane threat approaches, making this story just that much more believable. I also really liked the heroine, and her progression as a character throughout the story.

One tiny thing that majorly bothered me throughout the entire book is the reference to snow cones as "ice shave"! I don't know a single local who refers it to anything other than "shave ice" ;) just nit-picking though!
Profile Image for Courtney.
799 reviews95 followers
August 24, 2014
Wow, this book was a wild ride. I don't think I read it so much as inhaled it- it was a super fast read, and compelling. The characters are very well written, and the story is both beautiful and terrifyingly realistic (well, mostly). You have to be somewhat open-minded and comfortable with sci-fi to get through the plot twist in the latter half of the book, but it's well worth it. The overall scenario- loss of technology, resources, global catastrophe- is strikingly plausible, which makes this read all the more terrific and terrifying.

Long and short- loved it!
Profile Image for Lina.
148 reviews31 followers
May 19, 2015
--- 4.5 stars ---

You know when you can spot a book that you know you'll love from a mile away? A book that just screams you?

That was definitely this book for me.

Let's just take a moment to see what Tags I gave this post: Dystopian, Hawaii, Mythology, Sci-Fi,  Survival Stories. 

Now, this might sound like a rather strange mix. (Now that I think about it, a similar mix of genres can be found in Jessica Khoury's Origin.) But I just couldn't love it more. *Squee!*

If I haven't been obvious enough about it before, I am a huge fan of Sci-Fi and Dystopian. Survival Stories naturally fall into the mix, and I would rarely pass up an opportunity to read a book based in Mythology. Which leaves...

HAWAII!! (Caution: I get pretty worked up over Hawaii, haha.) My family and I had the privilege of visiting Kauai, Hawaii's oldest island, a few years ago, and I have never been to a more beautiful or relaxed place. Hawaii is truly such a special place, from the landscape to its culture.

And honestly, why aren't more books set in these beautiful islands?! As Aslan has so ingeniously and terrifyingly shown with his debut book, there may be no greater place to set an Apocalyptic story than the isolated islands of Hawaii. From the author on the book's Goodreads page:
"Everybody knows what happens at the end of the world in New York and LA, but what would a global disaster mean for Islanders? 95% of Hawaii’s food is imported every day. The islands are home to 1.5 million people. If things got tough there, where would all those people go? There are no mountain ranges or Great Plains to escape to. Everyone is stuck. Hungry. No way to escape." 

Between my visit and all the reading I did in preparation for the trip, I know a bit more about the islands than the next person -- which is still not too much compared with the vast wealth of knowledge there is to know about Hawaii -- and I can say that this definitely helped deepen my connection with the story. The tales of the islands' rich mythology, their geography, and their current struggles were already somewhat familiar and dear to me, which helps to explain why I drooled over this book until I had it in my hands, and simply devoured it as fast as I could when I finally had it.

The setting is absolutely crucial to this book, and is what really makes The Islands at the End of the World stand out in more ways than one. The idea of paradise quickly devolving into a nightmare highlights how the world could really turn upside-down so fast in the event of some sort of apocalypse.

The setting also played into a major theme in the book, which in my opinion helped make it so much more than just a survival story: Belonging.  As half Hawaiian, half white (with an appearance that makes it a struggle to fit in with the locals), MC Leilani has only lived in Hawaii with her family for 3 years. Though she feels a deep connection to the island as she discovers more about her own culture and heritage, she can't seem to fit in. Her fits of epilepsy further alienate her from others.
"Long black hair. Oval face with high cheeks. My eyes are hazel, my complexion is... too light. I'm almost as white as Dad."

I could personally understand Leilani so well, being of mixed heritage myself. I'm half white and half Hispanic, but my appearance and Germanic last name disconnect me from any casual association with my Hispanic heritage. Though I'm not a native Spanish speaker, I've been learning about the language and culture for 7 years now. While I love what parts of my culture I know, I often find it hard to believe that I'll ever truly feel like a part of the Hispanic community -- which is why I felt and rooted for Leilani every step of the way.

Aslan's book also grapples with the serious land dispute issues occurring in Hawaii, which I've been fortunate enough to have been exposed to during my 1st semester in college. Since the beginning of Hawaii's statehood -- or, it's illegal and unwanted annexation and overthrow of local government -- there has been a movement to restore land and governing rights back to Native Hawaiians, essentially recognizing it as an independent nation. So, to whom do these islands  belong -- the United States, or native Hawaiians? Who belongs to this category labeled as 'Hawaiian' when Hawaiians themselves are so mixed in heritage, and how might this split up families? Do the natural treasures of Hawaii belong  only to natives, or should they be shared? It's no simple issue, but Aslan incorporates it into his book admirably. 

I don't want to give too much away, but this Belonging theme isn't the only thing that makes The Islands at the End of the World more than just a survival story. As the book progresses, the mythology and Sci-fi elements begin to intertwine more closely with the plot, until they steal center stage. I really enjoyed these elements and thought that they were well-developed, even if at around the midway point I thought my head would explode (in a good way) from all the extra intensity these elements added to the already dramatic storyline.

Not only were these elements fascinating, but thanks to author-scientist Austin Aslan, they also seemed plausible. I'm going to out and admit it here that I've got a bit of idol-worship for the guy -- one look at his biography and you might, too. The book closely mirrors his life in some aspects, and his master’s degree in tropical conservation biology from the University of Hawaii at Hilo really adds credibility to the story.

All-in-all, The Islands at the End of the World was a face-paced, desperate story of survival that made my head spin -- but also hit close to home with its setting and theme. I may or may not have shed a tear or two somewhere along the way, and I adored the father-daughter relationship in the book. That this series is set to be just a two-booker seems perfect to me, as the sequel will be able to be just as fast-paced while also expanding and wrapping up the story.

Everything you'd ever want in a Survival Story and more, thanks to its unique setting.
August 5, 2014
In the developed world in the 21st century, the disasters we experience and imagine seem to fall into two categories: Mass assault, and collapse of the structures we have built to sustain our society. And despite the shock and pain inflicted by the former--the hijacker, the school shooter--it's the latter that seems to be more destructive to our communal sense of self.

For the people of New Orleans, the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina brought physical and emotional devastation; for the rest of us, it evoked a question, a question too hot for nearly all of our leaders even to ask, but one that haunts us all: How have we misunderstood who we are as a people and a nation, that we could allow this to happen? Mothers and children stranded on bridges in the heat, elderly couples drowned in attics, bedridden patients abandoned in hospitals, citizens shot in the street. By omission and commission, at an apex of suffering and need, that was our response to calamity. So, who are we?

This is the core question that animates The Islands at the End of the World, the richly layered (and edge-of-your-seat-entertaining) debut adventure novel by Austin Aslan. In Honolulu, a teenager named Leilani is watching television with her father when the image of the president's face flickers and the screen goes dark. The internet and telephones fail. Then electricity is gone. Cars die in the street. No one knows why.

The scenario would be worrisome in Charleston or Duluth, and it would be dangerous in Phoenix in July. But 2,500 miles from the mainland, on islands where nearly all food and fuel is imported, the failure of infrastructure is catastrophic. Within hours, social order begins to collapse. And there are complications: Oahu isn't where Leilani lives; she and her father are from the Big Island, and they know they need to find a way home. That bottle of medicine that keeps her seizure disorder in check? It's nearly empty. And above the islands in the sky, something enormous and amorphous has appeared.

That's plenty of plot to keep me reading late into the night, which is exactly how I consumed The Islands at the End of the World. What makes the novel so deeply satisfying is how much else is here: Leilani grapples movingly with the limitations presented by her epilepsy. She grapples, too, with what it means to be both Hawaiian (her mother is native) and haole, the pejorative for non-native whites. Her relationship with her father is tested and grows under the strain of their odyssey. Together, they confront the perils of a rough and beautiful land that Aslan–trained in Hawaii as a conservation biologist–renders expertly.

And together Leilani and her father confront what it means to watch human society disintegrate around them. They wonder whether it's reasonable to maintain faith in other people, or whether they, too, will descend into tribalism, defending only their own blood. They watch selfishness and violence rise easily and wonder whether there's room for faith at all.

The Islands at the End of the World is marketed for a young-adult audience. Does any of this sound like material for young people? Well, it should. One of the great gifts that teens have–a gift I would submit we don't recognize in them often enough–is the capacity to engage big questions. Aslan's novel offers plenty of room for them to do precisely that.

For adults looking for a guilty pleasure, I would recommend looking elsewhere. This is guilt-free pleasure: engrossing, thought-provoking, at turns touching, surprising, and funny, and tautly paced from start to finish. Go get it.
Profile Image for Kelly Sierra.
1,017 reviews47 followers
August 5, 2014
“The president’s voice is strong. ‘My fellow Americans, and my fellow citizens around the globe: I apologize for the deceptions of the past twenty-four hours. Well-intentioned advisors have counseled me to keep secret what we’ve recently learned. My conscience and my heart will not allow that. I have made the determination that you have a right to know about the extraordinary—”
The flat screen turns blue. A small text box bounces about the monitor: Weak or no signal.”
Leilani is your typical teenage girl living in Hawaii with her parents and brother. The only thing not typical about Leilani is that she is epileptic. This has caused her to be an outsider in social groups (along with being raised on the mainland and being half Hawaiian) and also to feel bad about certain things she cannot do, like driving. Other than that, she lives a pretty normal life. Her father and she are leaving their island to go to another in order to get into an epileptic drug study. Once they leave her mother, brother and grandfather at home strange things begin to happen. First it was a meteor that struck down and created a minor tsunami, secondly Leilani has been having odd dreams of times past before humans, and finally all satellites and communication devices are down, even microwaves stop working. Stuck on the wrong island, Leilani and her father fight their way through hysteria, internment camps, and really, really bad people. What happens when the apocalypse begins, but you are cut off from a main land or continent? What will Leilani do when her medicine runs out? Why does she keep dreaming during her fits? Are her mom, brother, and grandfather okay?
The Islands at the End of the World is a fascinating look at one of the most popular themes in YA right now. Almost every other book (hyperbole, people, hyperbole) in YA is a dystopian/apocalypse story that questions how we will cope if things go bad. What can we do when all the technology that we rely on is wiped away, when life as we know it is changed completely? All these novels take place on American main land ground, characters end up traveling crazy distances to reach resolutions to their stories; however, Leilani must travel from island to island to reach her home, and furthermore she and everyone else are cut off from the rest of the world. They do not know how everyone else is fairing. On top of this theme there is also the element of Hawaiian folklore/culture and aliens… that’s right I said aliens or some extra-terrestrial beings. I just found the story intriguing and also a breath of fresh air to be introduced to Hawaiian folklore, and also the perspective of islanders about the end of the world. Cannot wait to read the next book, pick this book up ASAP!
4.5 stars out of 5. Thanks Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Sarah.
503 reviews4 followers
January 19, 2018
I really enjoyed this story. I haven't read very many dystopian/apocalyptic thrillers (um, maybe just The Hunger Games), so I haven't much experience with the genre, but this seemed to be fresh, original, and unique. And if you're looking for diversity in YA, this is a book for you.

I think my favorite part of the book is Leilani and her father. It seems that most parent-child relationships in books are negative, but Lei and her dad have a very positive and loving relationship. They rescue and save each other repeatedly, making difficult decisions in order to put the other first. Family is very important in this story; the plot device moving the story forward is Lei and her dad trying to get back home to her mother, brother, and grandpa. There really is no romance in this book; all of the important relationships are either familial or platonic. And don't get me wrong, I love a good love story, but it's refreshing every once in a while to read a book about other just-as-important life relationships.

I also really enjoyed the setting: Hawaii. I recently vacationed in Hawaii and it was fun to revisit the culture and the landscape. It's such a beautiful place and as Lei and her dad travel through Maui, I recognized town names and landmarks. The book contains lots of Hawaiian mythology and history, as well, which I always enjoy.

The only part of the book that (at first) didn't really work for me was the melding of Hawaiian culture and the sci-fi elements; it threw me for a bit of a loop. While I still think it's a bit far-fetched, I liked the rest of the book so much and the descriptions of government and the general public's response to a global disaster were so realistic, I was able to suspend disbelief. And who knows? The apocalypse hasn't happened yet and who am I to say it won't happen that way? ;) And reading the book made me realize that if the end of the world were to happen and technology failed, you might never find out what did happen. Which would be really irritating and frustrating. I like to know things.

I also really liked the inclusion of chronic illness in the story. Lei has epilepsy and the book explores some of the difficulties of being a young person and surviving a disaster with a debilitating condition. The author is also creative and includes some of the historical aspects of epilepsy, that of epileptics having a special connection to the "divine" or having visions.

To end, it was enjoyable and a good start to a new series. The sequel is as yet untitled (according to my powers of internet snooping), but I will definitely be keeping an eye out for it.
Profile Image for Rafael De.
1 review
July 30, 2014
The Islands at the End of the World
Review by Rafael de Grenade

In this deeply perceptive, extraordinary, and exquisitely written survival story, Leilani and her father navigate the chaos of the apocalypse to reach their home island. The novel balances science and imagination and reaches into the depths of Hawaiian culture and symbology with reverence while astutely recognizing the complexities of the modern world, its advances, and its failures. This book is at once thrilling, honest, heartbreaking, and optimistic. Leilani and her father undertake a journey that engages with the brutality and savage human nature as their world crumbles around them. They learn the power of a dedicated belief in family, spirituality, and the generosity of the human spirit and contend with the miraculous potential of the universe to destroy and give birth. This book is not simply unsettling; it shakes the very core of the industrial and technological advances upon which we have constructed our reality, and it leads us instead on a path of discovering the true resilience of the human spirit. This is a story of a young woman’s a life of surfing, boys, family and medical struggles overturned into a deep quest for personal empowerment and a new dawning of the planet. In Islands at the End of the World, author Austin Aslan narrates a beautiful, cruel and haunting story. Aslan carries us effortlessly on an unbelievable journey without losing scientific credibility or a sense of immense, universal mystery. He deftly weaves the mystic, scientific, normal and divine to create a spellbinding story of this father-daughter duo as they struggle to navigate, make sense of and contend with the dissolution of humanity and the world, and their personal transformation.
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