Review of Nil by Lynne Matson

By: Lynne Matson
Publisher: Henry Holt
Release Date: March 4, 2014

A copy was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:

On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have one year. Exactly 365 days–to escape, or you die.

Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing she remembers is blacking out, and when she wakes up, she’s lying naked in an empty rock field.

Lost and alone, Charley finds no sign of other people until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought . . . and so is falling in love. With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that to save their future, Charley must first save him. And on an island rife with dangers, their greatest threat is time.

The Story:
Nil is successful as a romance but as science fiction less so. I felt that there was a lot of attention in the summary about the mysterious island. In reality I felt that Nil was only the backdrop to the story of the two main characters and the development of their relationship. I went into this book wanting Nil (the island) to be brutal, terrifying and mysterious. To be honest, I never felt much of any of that. I never once felt a sincere fear of what the island had up its sleeve.

This isn’t to say that this book wasn’t enjoyable, because it was. It had some outstanding elements and I struggled mostly due to my expectations of what I thought and wanted the book to be like.  I loved the main idea behind Matson’s story–that you end up on an island naked with no real idea how you got there and only have 365 days to figure out a way off or you would die.

Reading that there was a 365 day count down I was so excited because I knew that the days ticking off would be a huge part of the story and add such an intense nature to the reading experience. The tick-tock of the clock and days was a significant part of the story but I felt that rather large chunks were skipped and summarized. This caused me to separate from the stress of time slipping away though I think it was done for the opposite effect.

Nil is a stand-alone for now, which caused me some disappointment because I had questions that remained unanswered; questions I felt were important to the story arc.

The Characters:
Charley is a sweet-natured girl from Georgia. I thought she was likeable and I could easily get into her head-space as she found her way around the island. Nil is told from dual POV’s: hers and the leader of the tribe on Nil, Thad. Thad was also easy to like because of his compassion, sense of duty and loyalty. Both characters interacted well with one another and I found their blossoming relationship believable but rushed.

The secondary cast was less enjoyable for me and I honestly didn’t connect with any of them. No one but the two main characters will stick with me because I felt that the others were fairly one dimensional with the exception of Natalie. I felt that she had more depth and I was interested in learning more about her time on the island prior to Charley’s arrival.

Final Thoughts:
Nil was overall an enjoyable page turner of a book. It is easy to be swept away with Matson’s words though I felt that the secondary cast was not fully realized and Nil (the island) was sorely missing some potential for brutality and eeriness. I feel that this story was very successful as a love story and I enjoyed watching Thad and Charley get to know one another.


  1. says

    This is one of my most anticipated debuts this year! It sucks to hear that it didn’t meet you expectations. I was thinking it was going to be more about survival with an eerie, give, me the heebie jeebies, type of read. It’s kind of disappointing to hear that a lot of it’s based on romance. But hey, Just the other day I was saying that I needed to add more swoonable books to my “read” list. lol
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, great review 🙂

    • says

      Thank you Michelle! I think going into this one not expecting a big creepy factor might make it better. that was my biggest disappointment. Had I not anticipated that I might have had a better overall impression. I can’t wait to hear what you think when you do read it.

  2. says

    I’ve read one other review of this and it had similar complaints about the lack of information and suspense regarding the island. It does seem like a waste of such an interesting concept. While the romance seems like it was successful–which is definitely something–I, too, would want more from a novel in this setting. I’m glad you enjoyed it for the most part, but I do think I’ll skip this one. Great review!

    • says

      Thanks Natalie. I’d hoped for a bit more depth into the island and I wonder if the author will explore the island more in a companion novel? I’d really like that. I was so intrigued with the why and how.

  3. says

    Reading the summary, the thing that jumped out to me the most was the island setting and the possible sci-fi elements. It’s pretty sad to hear that these cool promising ideas were tossed to the side for an romance. I’m not a big fan of romance overpowering what may be the best elements of a story. It’s good that the characters are likeable though, and the romance not annoying. Great review! 🙂

      • says

        Yea, I’m not very keen on romance taking over either. It wasn’t too mushy but it was heavy with their development to me. I could have taken it easier if there had been harder science fiction elements. But I think (and see) others really loving it.

  4. says

    I still remember the day when I saw the cover reveal post of NIL a long time ago and I was immediately drawn to the story. Although post-apocalypitic competition-style survival books aren’t really a novelty, I still though NIL has some interesting and fresh elements to offer. It’s disappointing to know that it’s more of a romance than science fiction, because I’m really craving for something more serious and deadly rather than lovey-dovy small talks. Well, I guess I will have to keep looking.

    • says

      Angel—have you read Red Rising yet? It is a post-apocalyptic competition style survival book and is gruesome. It might fit the bill though it doesn’t have very many science fiction elements. It is very deadly, brutal and dark. I had this vision of how I expected Nil to be…if I hadn’t then I think I would have enjoyed it more.

  5. says

    Aw. I’m sorry you didn’t love this one. I tried reading it weeks ago, but stopped before I got to page 50 :p Didn’t enjoy the story :\ Which upset me a little. I also wanted the island to be a bit more awful, hih. But thank you for sharing and being honest. <3

    • says

      I did find it easy to pick up and read I guess I just had my heart set on a different type of book than what this one was. I wanted a more awful island too. What does this say about us?? haha

  6. says

    I was expecting a lot more focus on the island as well, rather than the romance between Charley and Thad. I enjoyed the romance, but I definitely would have preferred it if it was more thrilling, more race-against-the-clock, and way more scary. The deaths were pretty brutal though, so that was good! And YES, I was left disappointed in the end because I was expecting there to be more explanation on the island and various things that happened there. Glad you liked this, though!

    • says

      Yep…me too. I really thought the countdown aspect would give me total anxiety but it really didn’t. I read Red Rising right before this one so none of the deaths felt brutal. Red Rising was so dark this was very light and airy in comparison. I wanted more explanation of how the island worked too…and the why!

  7. says

    Well, that’s a little disappointing. Maybe not surprising considering the blasted emphasis on romance in a good 85% of YA books these days, but still a little disappointing. Ah well, I’m glad it wasn’t a complete waste for you. It is strange, though. It sounds like this should be all Lord of the Flies, or even LotR–fight, forage, steal the precious, etc.–but if they have that much time to spend on building a relationship…maybe getting home is easier than it sounds? That, or Sauron took a day off. 😉

    • says

      Yep, YA loves the romance—and I don’t mind it so much I just want to have heavier sci-fi…especially if that’s what I’m expecting going in. If you read this I’d be so curious to hear your thoughts Kel.

  8. says

    Wow! This one sounds really interesting and like something I’d really enjoy! The concept is indeed quite fascinating, and I’m glad you found the story to be enjoyable overall Kristen! It’s a shame that the secondary characters weren’t quite developed enough and that there were some points where it seemed rushed to you, that’s always a shame. Definitely going to have to get my hands on a copy of this ASAP!

    As always, thanks for the brilliant and informative review Kristen! 😀

    • says

      I’m hoping she’ll do a companion novel that will give more depth into the island and the secondary cast of characters. We’ll see 😉 glad this one appeals to you so much! I hope you love it when you read.

    • says

      I seem to be in the minority with rating it 3 stars. Most people seem to have connected to it much more than I did. I had just read Red Rising so I think I was expecting a darker read than I got. Expectations can really hurt a reading experience. If only I didn’t have them.

  9. says

    Oh I didn’t realise this was a stand-alone, but that’s interesting to hear. I should be reading it soon and have altered my expectations significantly since I first came across the book, but I’m hoping it will work for me overall. It’s a shame there were a few underdeveloped parts, but I’m glad you still thought it was an enjoyable read. Thanks for the helpful review, Kristen!

    • says

      I think she might do a companion book (liking that trend) and I’d read it though I’d have my expectations be much different. I’ll be curious to see what you think. Look forward to your review Sam (as always).

  10. says

    Aww, a book set in a mysterious island has the HUGE potential to be frightening and scary and make you jump out of your seat, but it’s disappointing that it didn’t do that for you. ):
    And the 365 countdown reminds me of Unraveling and Unbreakable by Elizabeth Norris’ countdown. It really sets the tone and makes you feel such a rush.
    Great review Kristen; now I know to put this book in my “maybe” pile. (:

    • says

      I’ve not read Unraveling or Unbreakable. I’ll have to add those to my TBR list! I love the stress of a countdown (when in the mood). Seems most people are really enjoying this one because the writing is fun and it’s fast paced. I went into it wanting such a darker book.

  11. says

    So I’m freaking STILL in the middle of this one since I’ve been prioritizing physical books and then my kobo decided to eat all of my eARCs. I’m at 23% I think and going in knowing that it’ll be light sci-fi, more romance seems to be working for me. We’ll see how it goes though 😉

    • says

      Oh no Kobo! No good eating books…this depressing me. I’ll be very curious to see how you feel about it once finished. It was an entertaining read for me.

  12. Pili says

    Hmmmm, well done romance can be fantastic but if I go into a book expecting survival and action and get mostly romance… nah, not my thing! I’m still undecided on this one.
    Thanks for your review, Kristen!

    • says

      I had expectations that weren’t met but it was a fun, fast paced read. If you read it you’ll have to let me know your thoughts. I couldn’t even guess if you’d like it or not. I’m pretty sure you’d be entertained though. Seems a lot of people are loving it so who knows.

  13. says

    Thanks for your review! Seems like I expected something completely different from what this really is. I’m not sure if I still want to read it. I’m more for action packed stories than the ones that are heavy on the romance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *