Book Review: Gray Wolf Island

Gray Wolf Island
Published By: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 10, 2017
Page Count: 336
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Young Adult - Mystery with a twinge of Magical Realism

Ruby has always been the twin in the shadow, the one who fades into the background when her brighter twin, Sadie, is around. Ruby is convinced that most people in her small Maine town would forget she existed if get face wasn't an identical copy of Sadie's. When Sadie passes away from a terminal disease, Ruby has no choice but to come out of her sister's shadow, but she isn't happy about drawing peoples' notice. 

Ruby is forced beyond her comfort zone when she enlists Elliot Thorne, local folklore and linguistic expert, to help her fulfill her sister's dying wish - to find the treasure on Gray Wolf Island. Elliott's family has been searching for the infamous treasure for generations, so he jumps at the chance to be part of Ruby's excursion. He also recruits help in the form of his two best friends, Gabe and Charlie. Gabe is rumored to be the son of a virgin while Charlie has the power to foresee his own death. The final member of the team is Anne, a girl who owns a boat and never sleeps. Originally she is recruited as a means of transport to the island, but soon becomes a close friend to everyone in the group. The camaraderie between the quintet was one of my favorite aspects of the novel.

There were moments reading Gray Wolf Island that brought to mind The Goonies, but on the whole this is a much darker story. I loved the eerie atmosphere of this novel and the quest for the treasure. I found the parallels between Ruby's treasure hunt and real life to be all too apparent. We are often trying to outrun the things that make us disappointed in ourselves while hunting for the ultimate thing to make us happy. Everyone's notion of treasure is different, but very rarely riches solve problems. Ultimately, we have to face our own demons at some point in order to find true happiness.

The characters that inhabit this novel are complex and flawed. I grew to care for each one - despite some of their horrendous past choices. Those choices did alter how I saw the character, but I was never able to truly dislike them. Be prepared to have your brain focused on ethical dilemmas and your heart torn by impossible choices. 

I loved the writing style of this one. It was beautiful and alluring with the right amount of balance between serious, mysterious, and humorous. The banter between Ruby and Elliot was a nice way to cut the tension. I also adored Charlie's sense of humor.

My only small complaint with this one was the pacing. It felt disjointed in some spots; some segments lagged while others felt like they were traveling at breakneck speed. I still kept reading at a voracious pace as I needed to know how things would end up for Ruby and the rest of the group. 

If you're looking for a mystery with elements of magical realism, realistic fiction, and adventure, this is a must read. 

One Last Gripe: My only gripe was the pacing issue mentioned in the review.

Favorite Thing About This Book: There is so much to love, but if I must choose one thing, I'd say the  characters.

First Sentence: It's no secret that somebody else has to die.

Favorite Character: Elliot

Least Favorite Character: Ronny

Right before Sadie died, she begged her sister, Ruby, to do the one thing she could never do herself: Find the treasure on Gray Wolf Island.

With just a mysterious treasure map as a guide, Ruby reluctantly allows some friends to join her on the hunt, each of whom is touched by magic: a boy allegedly born to a virgin, a girl who never sleeps, a boy who can foresee his own death, and a boy with deep ties to the island. Each of them is also keeping a secret—something they’ll have to reveal in order to reach the treasure.

As the secrets come to light, Ruby will have to decide: Can she make peace with her friends’ troubled pasts and continue to trust them? Can she forgive herself for doing the unspeakable? Deep in the wilderness of Gray Wolf Island, Ruby’s choices will determine if they make it out with the treasure—or merely with their lives.

From debut author Tracey Neithercott comes a darkly compelling tale of profound friendship, adventure, and finding the strength to tell the truth.


  1. Sounds like a neat story (I love sisters/twin stories) but, sadly, I'm not a big fan of magical realism. But you never know!

  2. It made me smile that you connect this story with The Goonies! My husband and I like watching reality shows about treasure (like the Oak Island show) so I think I'd really enjoy this book.


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