Daybreak on Raven Island

 
4.5 (2)
 
0.0 (0)
189 0
Daybreak on Raven Island
Author(s)
Age Range
8+
Release Date
August 23, 2022
ISBN
978-0593404638
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Tori, Marvin, and Noah would rather be anywhere else than on the seventh grade class field trip to Raven Island prison. Tori would rather be on the soccer field, but her bad grades have benched her until further notice; Marvin would rather be at the first day of a film festival with his best friend, Kevin; and Noah isn't looking forward to having to make small talk with his classmates at this new school.
 
But when the three of them stumble upon a dead body in the woods, miss the last ferry back home, and then have to spend the night on Raven Island, they find that they need each other now more than ever. They must work together to uncover a killer, outrun a motley ghost-hunting crew, and expose the age-old secrets of the island all before daybreak.

Editor reviews

2 reviews
Adventure Mystery with an Agatha Christie Vibe
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
5.0
It should be exciting to be the first people to tour Raven Island in years, but the 7th graders aren't all that thrilled. Marvin is most interested, since he likes to make films and is somewhat interested in entering a movie competition. His parents run a Korean restaurant, so don't have a lot of time to encourage this pursuit. Noah is new to the school, and still dealing with the death of his mother, which has made him fearful about a lot of things. His therapist has encouraged him to keep a journal as a way to deal with these fears. Tori is angry about everything, mainly because of issues with her brother Danny, and also because she was taken off her soccer team for poor grades and behavior. Her friends who are still on the team are at a tournament. When the teacher and chaperone, Mr. Thompson, has the students "buddy" up, these three end up together. After taking the ferry over to the island, they are given a tour by Mr. Thorne, who is dressed in an old fashioned guard's uniform. The building had been a fort, then a tuberculosis sanitorium, and then had been used for a high security prison. It closed in 1972, and the father of the new owner, Ms. Chavez, was the last warden. He met an untimely end when prisoners tried to escape, and the prison was closed down because there had been so many inmate deaths. There's talk of cursed cells and ghostly prisoners, and the fact that there is a film crew there makes this seem possible. Tori and the two boys sneak off into the nearby woods and go towards a lighthouse, where they see faceless ghosts that Marvin says seem like the dalgyal gwishin that his grandmother talks about-- ghosts who have no one who loved them to remember them. Marvin comes up with a plan to get off the ferry and spend the night on the island to make his film, and Tori and Noah get caught up in it. It doesn't take long before they are discovered by Mr. Thorne, who takes them to Ms. Chavez's mansion. She's not happy with them, but makes sure they call home, have dinner, and are locked in their room for the night until they can get the ferry back in the morning. Of course they climb out the window and start to investigate a number of odd things. They've snagged Warden Chavez' journal from the office and find some interesting things about his career, especially the fact that he was trying desperately to reform the way the prison was run and treat the prisoners more fairly. The kids hang out with the filmmakers for a while, and when one of them is shot and killed, they have even more to investigate. Will they be able to solve the mystery of the 1972 jailbreak, Bob's death, and whether or not there really are ghosts on the island before the sun rises?
Good Points
A field trip will seem like a really rare and exciting event to middle grade readers, and the fact that the trip is to an abandoned prison makes this even more exciting. For a student like Marvin, this is a perfect opportunity! For poor Mr. Thompson, who has to chaperone even though he wasn't expecting to, this is less exciting and causes him to be harried, which gives Noah, Tori, and Marvin a chance to make a break for it. I love that this was handled realistically-- teachers, in general, never lose anyone! I also liked that Ms. Chavez and her staff tried to keep their eye on the students as well. The fact that young people could see ghosts and adults can't is right in line with how middle grade fantasy usually works. The ghost hunters were a good inclusion, since books that feature them, like Poblocki's The Ghost Hunter's Daughter and Schwab's Cassidy Blake series, appeal to my readers very strongly. The history of the island prison, and the connections to Ms. Chavez, make for a really well developed mystery. Throw in an unfortunate murder that must be solved, and an all night adventure with ghosts, and Daybreak on Raven Island has a lot to recommend it to tween (and adult!) readers.

This made me think, of course, of Choldenko's Al Capone books, as well as Sullivan's Escape From Alcatraz, but definitely gives an interesting spin on the idea of a prison on an island with the appearance of ghosts as well as an actual murder to be solved. My students are all about a good murder mystery, so I will definitely be buying this one for my school library, especially since Bradley's Double Vision books are strong circulators.
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Don’t let your fears control you.
Overall rating
 
3.7
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
3.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What worked:
The trio of main characters form an unusual blend of personalities. Tori is a competitive soccer player and could be a popular member of the class. However, she’s upset about being suspended from her team, her brother’s in prison, and she really has no interest in making friends. That’s strange as she chooses Marvin, a geeky boy with dreams of creating a spooky movie, as her field trip buddy and they add Noah, a withdrawn new kid who fears everything, as their third. Marvin’s curiosity gets them into loads of trouble. Noah doesn’t want to be left alone even though every new experience adds another subject to his list of fears; he literally has a twenty-page list of them.
The story involves ghosts but it doesn’t exactly feel like a ghost story. The kids are able to see ghosts, while adults cannot, but their interactions aren’t frightening or spooky. A ghost offers help when the kids are lost in the dark woods but other observations are more confusing. The ghost of the last warden is seen talking to inmates near a rowboat along the shore but the kids don’t understand why. They figure out something happened on the island when the prison was still open and they’re determined to uncover the secrets. The overall story reads like a mystery so readers will be able to speculate and piece together the clues along with the characters.
The setting is perfect for a ghost story. The deteriorating stone prison is crumbling, damp, and musty which creates a stifling atmosphere. The waters between the island and the mainland are treacherous as the powerful tides only allow the ferry to safely traverse the distance once each day. The kids have no way to leave and much of the story takes place at night. Of course, it’s a cold and rainy night. The structures on the island include the run-down prison, an old lighthouse, and a forgotten morgue. Black ravens constantly watch from the trees causing readers to wonder if the eerie birds might be stalking the kids.
What didn’t work as well:
For kids with various emotional issues, all three main characters make incredibly “brave” decisions and take dangerous risks. Noah constantly ventures into the unknown despite requiring psychiatrists in the past to help him face his phobias. The characters’ behaviors don’t always match up with the personalities established in the early chapters.
The Final Verdict:
Don’t let your fears control you. The mystery on Raven Island is interesting but it’s difficult to make connections with the characters. Perhaps it’s just me, but I keep wanting more descriptions or detail to help me infer the whole characters. The atmosphere and conflict definitely fit the story and I recommend this book for lovers of mysteries and ghosts.
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