The Island Keeper Critical Essays

Harry Mazer


(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

This novel addresses a number of issues of interest to teenagers. Although The Island Keeper can be read simply as a story of physical survival, the issues of emotional maturity, physical appearance, the death of family members, rebellion, the experience of running away from home, the need to attract attention in the hope of making family members appreciate one more, and the acceptance of others as they constitute key elements of the work. Loneliness and being alone are also factors—there is a difference between the two that must be realized. Harry Mazer’s dedication at the beginning of the book highlights the theme of seeking and taking action: “to the young who stand at the threshold of an uncertain world. Courage.”

Cleo is caught in a real crisis, and it is one that she has created. As she works to survive the island winter, she learns that self-discovery is the pathway through which she can free herself from this situation.

Cleo spends a total of seven months on the island. She arrives overweight, without preparations, unable to handle problems, and lonely. During her stay, she masters survival skills and learns to cope with the deaths of her mother and sister. She leaves thinner, confident, able to handle her problems, and ready to get on with her life. She realizes that no easy answers exist to life’s complexities. Cleo’s father and grandmother had searched for her and presumed her dead. They are still remote upon...

(The entire section is 526 words.)