The premise of Lynne Matson's NIL sounded really interesting. Sort of a rip-off of the TV show Lost, but interesting just the same: You wake up on a mysterious and beautiful island, transported there (seemingly) randomly by a "gate", and have one year to catch an outbound "gate" home. Otherwise you die. Catching a gate isn't as easy as it sounds, because they only come once a day...and they appear (seemingly) at random around the island. And there are other people besides you hunting for gates. Plus, the island offers up its own perils (Lions and tigers and bears-oh my!-and wolves and hyenas and wild boars) that can do you in even before your original 365-day exparation date.
This is what 17-year-old Charley is faced with when she blacks out in the Target parking lot and wakes up on the island of NIL.
I thought: Sweet! If I have to read a Dystopian, at least I can read something that sounds interesting instead of one of the many a wanna-be-the-next-Hunger Games that fill our shelves. NIL sounded like it would fit the bill nicely (besides, I was totally a fan of Lost back in the day).
Unfortunately, NIL didn't really get good until the last 1/4 of the book. Before that, there was a lot of romance based purely on insta-love. And it wasn't even the exciting sort of romance. The characters faced dangers, yes, but they seemed like things mentioned in passing. Even the ticking clock looming over everyone's head never seemed particularly threatening. Mainly, NIL was one big beach party where characters feasted on fish and tropical fruit, wore leis made from island flowers, and struck up (doomed) relationships with other islanders. Sure, characters died. Sure, they whined and speculated about how to get home. But it was all one big "whatever." I never really got fully invested in the story the way I wanted to.
But it kept me reading. Mainly because I was determined to finish the book. And when NIL finally did get good, it went quickly and I sped through the remaining chapters (the 'after NIL' bit did drag somwhat). A lot of questions were still left unanswered, however. I assume those issues will be addressed in the follow-up books. In the end, I did like NIL. But not enough to read the rest of the trilogy. --AJB