Nil by Lynne Matson Review

Monday, December 2, 2013

Title: Nil
Author: Lynne Matson (Twitter)
Publisher: Henry Holt
Publish Date: March 4, 2014
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi
Pages: 384
Source: Publisher

On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have one year. Exactly 365 days--to escape, or you die. Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing she remembers is blacking out, and when she wakes up, she’s lying naked in an empty rock field.

Lost and alone, Charley finds no sign of other people until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought...and so is falling in love. With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that to save their future, Charley must first save him. And on an island rife with dangers, their greatest threat is time.
Science fiction is one of those genres that will never grow tired, simply because there will always be some incredibly, far-fetched but eerily tangible idea to fuel a new adventure. Nil by author, Lynne Matson, is an intriguing new addition to the world of young adult science fiction. Without warning, we and our characters are thrust into a sort of alternate dimension or world in which an invisible clock is ticking. Teens that land on the mysterious island of Nil have exactly 365 days from the time of their arrival to find a way off the island and back home - but it might not be as simple as it seems. 

I think that science fiction, while an endlessly interesting genre, is also probably one of the trickiest to write, as well. Authors ask us to take their worlds and their events and accept them in their entirety. In theory, this is great because if it's done well, we find ourselves completely enmeshed in a culture, a world, or a time that is so vastly separated from our own, yet we still find it entirely plausible. If, however, the world is not built correctly, we find ourselves lost within a world that feels a bit too distant from our own. Nil was a bit complex in this regard. The world Ms. Matson has created is unique and a bit Lost-esque. It was rich and vivid and accessible, but it wasn't altogether explained either. As much as I enjoyed it, I did feel as though we're forced to take this world at face value and not really ask any of those questions we're desperate to find answers for.

Charley was, at first, the heroine I had been searching for. She was brave and strong, and had no qualms with standing on her own two feet. Adding the others into the equation though, especially Thad, stripped her of some of the magic that made her such a strong heroine. She began to doubt herself, and as she fell for Thad, her persona waffled and self-doubt crept in. I wanted so desperately to see her own her theories about the island. I wanted to see her truly believe in herself, but she began to lose herself and her identity in Thad. I thought Thad was a strong, vivid character with the weight of Nil on his shoulders, but I wished that the insta-love between them could have simmered a bit in the background, simply amping up the tension.

Nil gives us a countdown clock from the start, so we know it's going to be a fast-paced novel, and it's one of those books that you can comfortably read in one sitting. However, this is one of those books that I think might actually have benefited from being the first installment of a series. There were so many unanswered questions at the end of the novel that I closed the final page feeling a bit unsatisfied. We were given a pretty conclusion to the story, but there was so real answer for me as to what on the island made the end results tick and, while that intrigues me, it also made me feel a bit slighted.

Overall, Nil was a good story, but it was lacking that extra oompf that would have made it great. It's a classic example of a fantastic premise and strong writing that simply lacks a little bit of extra detail, instead asking us to simply play along. Nevertheless, despite the flaws, it was a pretty solid story. I give it a 3.5 out of 5, and I recommend it for all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy science fiction.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.


  1. Interesting, sort of reminds me of Countdown by Michelle Rowen mixed with Survivor. Glad it was an interesting sci-fi read, although I know what you mean about books lacking detail. Great review as always Mel!

    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

  2. I hate a book that leaves me with unanswered questions. It feels like such a gut-punch to be left like that, so I doubt I'll be picking this up after all. Still, I'm glad you found aspects to enjoy in this, Melissa - great review!

  3. Sounds like there needed to be a bit more worldbuilding to really make this book stand out. However, I'm still really looking forward to reading this one! I do love SciFi and all the wild and crazy stuff people can imagine.

  4. Well shoot! I had really high hopes for this one Melissa! I'm bummed that Charley loses herself a bit in Thad and the insta-love is so prominent. I'm also not too excited about the lack of answers by the time we reach the last page, that always drives me crazy. Still, despite all that, a 3.5 is a solid rating from you, so I'll definitely still be giving this book a try!

  5. This sounds like an interesting premise. I'm not usually much for science fiction, but I may have to check this one out.

  6. I love science-fiction too and the premises of this sounds really good, It kind of sounds like it needed more world-building and needed to lose the insta-love. I do not need romance in my sci-fi and I cannot understand why YA tries to force it, it hurts the plot and takes away from building. Wonderful review Melissa :)

  7. I read about 25% of this book and unfortunately gave up on it. I'm not sure whether I'll pick it up again, but I had trouble with the science fiction world building. The way Charley ended up on the island was just too crazy, as was the fact that only teens can be there. I just didn't buy it. I fully concede that perhaps it all makes sense later on, but you seem to indicate that it isn't the case. I also thought that Charley and Thad were way too enamored with each other right away, and it sounds like the love story isn't something that blew you away either. I love when a couple makes each other better and stronger, and it doesn't look like these two did that for you. Glad you enjoyed this overall, though.

  8. For some reason I had assumed that Nil was part of a series, so I can understand why you were left a bit disappointed with the lack of answers. Charley sounds like a great character, but characters who change or are easily swayed by a guy I tend to dislike. Minor issues aside though I think I still will be giving this book a go. Lovely review Melissa! :)


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