Nowhere Island by Tania Unsworth

Nowhere Island by Tania Unsworth – at a glance

The School Reading Lists’ five word review: Adventure, bravery, friendship, nature, survival.
Children’s book title: Nowhere Island.
Children’s author: Tania Unsworth.
Genre: Adventure.
Published by: Zephyr (an imprint of Head of Zeus).
ISBN: 9781804540084.
Recommended for children aged: 9+ year-olds.
First published: Hardback August 2023.
This children’s book is ideal for: KS2 & KS3 adventure fans.

Nowhere Island by Tania Unsworth

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Our review:

Nowhere Island by Tania Unsworth banner

Gill escaped just after his twelfth birthday, in the middle of the afternoon.

Fed up with being passed between an endless stream of foster families, orphaned Gill impulsively runs away from his social worker by hiding in the back of a stranger’s car.

When the driver stops to feed a stray dog on the side of the motorway, Gill’s backpack – containing everything he owns – is stolen from the car. Abandoning his escape vehicle to give chase, Gill finds himself in a hidden wilderness, a large wooded island at the intersection of two lanes of the motorway. The island is the unlikely home of bickering brothers Riley and Grayson, their thieving dog Junk and silent Pez, all runaways like Gill.

The island was in plain sight, impossible to miss. Yet it was invisible.

Naming their new home ‘Nowhere Island‘, Gill is welcomed into the boys’ camp and their strange world of foraging for berries and stealing from the cars that pull into the nearby rest stop. Although warned by the brothers that it’s no use, Gill slowly befriends the traumatised Pez, who’s escaped from the only world she’s ever known, a doomsday cult known as the Starborn.

Nowhere Island becomes a safe haven for the runaways, both human and canine. But when the outside world encroaches and danger threatens, the group are forced to confront their painful pasts in order to protect both their newfound home and the much-needed sense of family that they’ve found in each other.

Their invisibility had always kept them safe. Now it was the reason they were in such danger. It was as if the island itself had turned against them.

Nowhere Island is a fast-paced, survivalist adventure story. The idea of a group of children living on a motorway island, while thankfully unlikely, is realistically portrayed. The daily life of the boys is well planned, from toilet arrangements to hub cap plates. The children’s painful backstories are moving without being mawkish or overly sensationalised.

The short chapters and snappy dialogue move the story along at a gripping pace. The descriptions of the island make the tale immersive and the friendship between the children is touching. The theme of found family, of it being where you belong rather than where you were born, is poignant and fitting with the publisher’s links with Empathy Lab which aims to build stronger, kinder communities through books.

Nowhere Island is a modern adventure story that will appeal to fans of Katherine Rundell and Eva Ibbotson.

Many thanks to Zephyr for the review copy.

If you like Nowhere Island by Tania Unsworth you might also like: our reviews of Tourmaline and the Island of Elsewhere by Ruth Lauren, The Time Traveller and the Tiger by Tania Unsworth,  Xanthe & the Ruby Crown by Jasbinder Bilan, Wildoak by C.C. Harrington, The Magician’s Map by Mikki Lish and Kelly Ngai and By Ash, Oak and Thorn by Melissa Harrison,

Browse our list of adventure stories for children and teens

About Melanie Dillon

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Melanie has a Master’s degree in Information and Library Management; a Post Graduate Certificate in Children’s Literature focusing on the Reading Agency’s Reading Well scheme & LGBT YA fiction, and extensive experience working in school and public libraries. Linkedin | Reviews by Melanie Dillon