The action takes place in the titular Samoa, a less-travelled part of the world, even for backpackers. The setting is beautifully-described and evidence of Sherwood’s first-hand experience travelling in this part of the world.
I never had a gap year myself, so I enjoyed learning about Samoan culture, whether it be breadfruit, fales or fafafinas. It was also fun to gain an insight into backpacking culture. Sherwood presents everything from cocktails to cockroaches with honesty and a wry sense of humour.
The story focuses on Jodi, a familiar protagonist for young adult fiction. She is timid, out of her comfort zone, and often prone to self-doubt and introspection. Naturally, Jodi grows stronger as the novel progresses, upon finding love, adventure and peril.
Jodi is joined by a cast of more outlandish characters, such as the lovable Hans, obnoxious Hannah, comical Tom, loathsome Jonno, and curvy but cunning Lelu. Most enigmatic is Gwyn the elderly Welshman who has a secret mission which he must achieve at all costs...
The novel begins at a steady pace, easing you in with the characters and backpacking escapades. However, it soon quickens once Gwyn reveals his backstory, accelerating towards a night-time jungle rescue with bullets, blood and baddies.
The action scenes mean that Sherwood delivers an exciting novel with broad appeal, more Hunger Games than Twilight. This is part-YA fiction, part-thriller, set against an exotic backdrop to rival Alex Garland’s The Beach.
I hope this is the start of a franchise because I would certainly be interested in revisiting these characters in a sequel. But where next? Hawaiian Sun? Fijian Sun? Barbadian Sun?
That choice rests with the author. I look forward to seeing where the compass and the muse take Sherwood next.
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