Saturday, January 8, 2011

Review: Island Sting by Bonnie J. Doerr

Island Sting by Bonnie J. Doerr
Publisher: Leap Books
Publication Date:  January 6, 2010
Rating: 3.5 Bookcases

The Short Of It:

Island Sting is a quick read that is part mystery and part eco-thriller that carries a good message.

The Long Of It:

Kenzie and her mom move from New York City to the Florida Keys after her parents’ divorce.  The island of Big Pine has a close knit community, where everyone knows everyone else.  It is also home to the National Key Deer Refuge.  On their very first afternoon on Big Pine, Kenzie goes on a rescue mission when she tries to rescue what she thinks is a drowning dog.  This rescue sets Kenzie off on a series of adventures in which she helps solve several mysteries and help coordinate an island clean up day.

Island Sting was one of those books that had been on my radar, but I had never gotten the chance to read it.  When it came up for a blog tour, I was excited that my chance to read it had finally come.  I was expecting something along the lines of Hoot or Scat for older teens.  Instead, it was a story about a newcomer to the Florida Keys learning about Key Deer combined with a small mystery.  I say small because the information surrounding the mystery was handed out piece by piece, so that halfway through you know which character’s hunch will end up being correct. 

There was an interesting dynamic between Kenzie and her mother.  It was obvious that there were in the Florida Keys for a fresh start, to make a new life for themselves.  So it was odd that at first they both have negative feelings about their new home.  Also, you would think that Ms. Ryan would want Kenzie to explore a bit and become familiar the island, but instead she scolds Kenzie for going out.  Maybe I’m buying into the stereotype, but I hear New York City and I think “savvy, I can take care of myself teen.”  Ms. Ryan isn’t the only adult that treats Kenzie like she has no clue about keeping herself safe and this made me question her age.  There was mention of cars and driving amongst the Kenzie and the other teens, so I assumed that they were around 15 or 16.  However, they aren’t always treated like they were in high school and didn’t always act that age.  That plus the illustrations that were spread throughout that book, make we lean towards recommending Island Sting to tweens and middle grade readers as well as teen who like stories with an environmental theme.
Other than the age issue, I really like Kenzie.  She is inquisitive, clever, caring and willing to work to accomplish her goals.  A city girl, now living in a remote town, she learns as much as she can about the Key Deer and puts a lot of effort into helping her new friend, Angelo, solve a mystery that the local law enforcement has not been able to solve.  The supporting characters definitely add depth and roundness to the story.  In addition to Angelo and his father, Kenzie meets a group of teens, the priest of a local church, and the officers at the National Key Deer Refuge.  It’s obvious that Ms. Doerr worked hard to make Big Pine very culturally diverse.  I found this to be a nice touch.

The extras like that map of Big Pine and No Name Key and the information on Florida Key Deer were a great addition.  It was nice to be able to refer to the map as Kenzie travels to different points of the island.  And the author’s note and Additional Information page was perfect for readers who want to learn more about the Florida Keys Deer.  Again, I would recommend Island Sting to readers who enjoy reading books about environmental issues, as well as readers who like a little mystery.

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