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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.”

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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 her return, and Cleo knows that they will not change their basic personalities. She accepts her family as it is, faults and all. She decides to return to boarding school. Instead of merely existing there, she now plans to assume an active role, buoyed by the thought of returning to the island during the summer.

Mazer leads readers to the conclusion that life is what one makes of it. Planning ahead is essential, and carelessness is unacceptable. Solutions to problems must come from within, not through attempts to change the actions of others. People create their own...

(The entire section contains 526 words.)

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Critical Context