The Sandcastle Empire
The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson catapults the reader into a dystopian world where the underprivileged have formed an uprising called the Wolfpack, which mercilessly overtakes society amid environmental chaos. Eden, the protagonist who comes from a privileged family, resides in a labor camp where her story begins as she escapes with three other residents of the camp. When they beach on a mysterious island seeking sanctuary, Eden and the other escapees encounter not only treacherous biologically-modified traps but also a boat full of unexpected pirate-esque boys who bring even more intrigue to the already cryptic locale.
Olson intertwines Eden’s narrative with flashbacks and stream-of-consciousness so that the pace is broken up in an easy-to-read manner. Ultimately, the plot thickens and ventures from dystopian into sci-fi. Olson prevails in bringing thought-provoking material into the Young Adult novel through Eden’s experiences dealing with the dichotomous nature of privilege and poverty, the split reality of before and after the war, and the loss of loved ones. Olson also comments on the current environmental state of the world in the wake of global climate change. The Sandcastle Empire operates on two planes: as a thrilling read about the adventure of the surprisingly relatable Eden and as a hyperbolized version of the social issues of today. Young adult readers will enjoy this book, and it will be interesting to see where Olson finds her niche in this genre.