DiscoverComing of Age

Return to Isle of the Shallows


Worth reading 😎

A portal fantasy adventure with a timely message and good intentions, but...


Drew Barret is about to start a new school after being suspended from his last one for fighting. He hopes he can survive the semester without running into bullies or becoming one himself, but his fiery temper keeps getting him in trouble. When he's snatched away from the lake near his home by a mythical monster, he finds himself trapped in a fantastical world, held captive by a maniacal beast, putting his true nature to the test. With his family and best friend, Trev, venturing into the world of Aqualor to find him, he relies on their support to help the Arvaks, Winged-Groshin and Lamera find peace and freedom in their homeland. Together, they experience a wild adventure and witness Drew's journey of self-discovery as he battles to control the rage within him.

“There is a reason for everything.”

I never had any doubt that there is something truly beautiful at the core of Return to Isle of the Shallows. An important and timely lesson to be learned and some growing up to be done for Drew Barrett, its supposed central character, in the midst of all the promised adventure.

Indeed, there was an adventure as there were lessons to be learned. The settings in both Drew’s world and the one on the other side of the portal were also beautifully described, so much so that I could almost touch and taste them… sometimes.

I liked the intention behind the book, too. Drew did learn what he needed to learn and I really admired the way he took that learning back to Longwood Academy and responded to a bully with kindness. It was right at that moment that the story really drove its message home for me. That scene in itself was perfect. So I really wondered why the adults had to talk too much getting there.

And there was too much talking in this book. Too much of Drew’s parents, Maria and Frank, analyzing everything and everyone. Too much dialogue spoken for the reader’s sake. Too much recounting of events that would’ve worked a lot better if it had actually been shown instead. Too many words, too little action.

On the same vein, there was also too much backstory piled up in the earlier pages, rendering the characters catatonic in order to deliver them. It made for a lot of unnaturally long, meandering scenes that got confusing, moving back and forth between present and past and past and present and even further back into a much earlier past. And it’s really frustrating for a story to lose its forward momentum this way and this early, because then it loses its chance to engage its readers.

And as much as the descriptions were written very vividly, sometimes they have a way of branching out into pathways and sceneries that were not even important. There were too many explanations of things that didn’t play a significant role in the story (like the Arvak youths' "science project"), and I really wish they did, because then it would've made for a more exciting adventure.

Moreover, I failed to see why Maria and Frank had to be in on all of this, because they were seriously stealing too much of the spotlight away from the kids. So much so that the supposedly central character Drew was only given that one moment to stand up against the villain and it almost felt like an afterthought.

Such a lovely premise and such great potentials that got so bogged down by the story’s need to tell its readers too much, drill its messages too deep, and give its adults too much unnecessary screen time.

I personally almost gave up on this book a couple of times, which would’ve been such a waste because, all things considered, it did conclude in a satisfying way – salvaged by that one lovely scene of kindness triumphing over the bully. ♥

Reviewed by

I am a casual reader, always on the lookout for new books to read. I try to find the good in every story and will rave about what has touched me deeply as a reader and a writer. If something did not work for me, I can be very honest in saying so and explain 'why' to the very best of my ability.


Drew Barret is about to start a new school after being suspended from his last one for fighting. He hopes he can survive the semester without running into bullies or becoming one himself, but his fiery temper keeps getting him in trouble. When he's snatched away from the lake near his home by a mythical monster, he finds himself trapped in a fantastical world, held captive by a maniacal beast, putting his true nature to the test. With his family and best friend, Trev, venturing into the world of Aqualor to find him, he relies on their support to help the Arvaks, Winged-Groshin and Lamera find peace and freedom in their homeland. Together, they experience a wild adventure and witness Drew's journey of self-discovery as he battles to control the rage within him.

Chapter 4 A Splash

During the drive home, Alexia excitedly recounts to their mother how Drew had saved them, how scared she had been, and how quickly that had changed once Drew pushed the bully and ran to Mrs. Grania’s office.

“He pushed him so hard–” Alexia is saying when Drew shoots her a look that tells her to stop talking.

“Why did you push him, Drew? If you were right outside Mrs. Grania’s office, you should have just left him and informed her or whoever was on duty in the grounds. What did your father say this morning? No foolishness, right? Your father and I are serious. You couldn’t even get through the first day without a problem? We will not tolerate you getting suspended again.” Maria looks frustrated and disappointed as she concentrates on the traffic ahead of her.

“But he hit Lexi!” shouts Drew. “I tried to get away from him and not get into a fight, but when he hit Lexi, I just got so mad. There’s no way I was letting him get away with that!” He was breathing heavily and his face was red with anger.

Maria looks at her son. He has tears in his eyes and she feels sorry for him but knows she cannot encourage this behavior.

“I’m sorry, Drew. Thank you for taking care of Lexi. But next time go straight to Mrs. Grania. That’s the right thing to do. I don’t want to encourage you to fight unless it’s necessary.”

 “But I thought it was necessary!” he retorts angrily.

“Drew...” Maria begins to scold him for talking back but decides to let it go. “I will go talk to Mrs. Grania tomorrow.”

“No, that will make things worse. Just forget it!” Drew exclaims.

“All right. But let me know if anything else happens with that boy, okay?”

“Sure,” he answers softly.

“I don’t think he’s going to mess with Drew after today,” Alexia says and chuckles, nudging Drew in the back of his neck with her pointy finger.

Drew turns around and smiles at her, closing his eyes and rolling his head to the left side of the head rest, feeling calmer now. Lexi is so cool when she wants to be.

Maria continues toward their neighborhood. Good spirits return as thoughts of the bully fade. Alexia is retelling her tale of how her first day panned out and Maria is beaming with pride for her daughter’s accomplishment of making a friend at the new school. Alexia had been withdrawn and unhappy at Agustov. Although she liked her teachers, she did not like the Principal nor did she ever seem comfortable with the other children. No matter what Maria did to help Alexia make friends, she had never developed a bond with any of her classmates. Maria had tried everything from inviting the students to their house to being class mom, all for nothing. Alexia still was unhappy and felt out of place. Taking this into consideration, along with Drew’s suspension and their distrust of Mrs. Feruson, Maria and Frank decided to look into Longwood Academy.

Maria had heard great things about Longwood and when she had told her children, they had been excited and eager to visit the school. As soon as the family had visited the school on the hill overlooking the turquoise harbor, behind beautifully crafted iron gates, and nestled among many plush trees and winding walkways, they had fallen in love. The trees were in full bloom and the foliage was well-groomed. At the base of the tree trunks were tropical-colored flowers intermingled with rice fern sporadically placed along the well-manicured green grass on the edge of each path. There was a constant, gentle breeze that blew from the sea across the land, which had an aromatic and exciting energy. The views from the top of the hill were gorgeous, overlooking the clear, tranquil harbor, lined with beautiful homes, some of which had boats docked at the end of their backyard. Maria and Frank were excited for Drew and Alexia to have the opportunity to be a part of this special learning environment.

“Mommy, this is the best!” Alexia had said.

“I’ve heard that sea air helps you learn better. It relaxes you and helps relieve anxiety,” Maria had said, encouraging the excitement.

“You are absolutely right,” Frank had agreed.

“I bet we could do a lot of adventuring around here, Drew. I can’t wait to meet some friends and go on adventures with them,” Alexia had chuckled and run off. Maria had been stunned to hear Alexia speak like this seeing that she had not made one friend at Agustov.

Maria comes back to the present as she pulls up to the basketball court. Trev’s mother pulls up and Trev jumps out of the car, crosses the courts and says with a huge grin, “Hi, Aunt M. We’ll drop Drew home tonight about 6 p.m.”

“Great,” she says to Trev. “Thanks, Lynn,” she shouts to Trev’s mother as she waves goodbye and pulls off to drop Alexia for her piano lessons.

While Trev and Drew wait for the rest of the gang, they warm up and Drew tells Trev about Longwood Academy, avoiding the incident with the bully.

“School didn’t feel the same today,” Trev says.

“I wish you could move to Longwood. It’s so cool,” Drew says excitedly to Trev.

“Yeah, me too. I can’t stand Mrs. Feruson. She’s even worse this year. You should have heard her at assembly today. Just hearing her voice makes me sick.”

Drew laughs and moves the conversation on, bringing the focus back to his favorite topic.

“Anyway, enough about school,” Drew says. He does not want to ruin the exuberance he is feeling about playing basketball with the gang. Drew dribbles the ball and shoots from the free throw line. 

“Swish! And in it goes!” He turns with a grin to a stunned Trev.

“You make me sick too!” Trev says and they both laugh.

One by one, the others arrive and soon everyone is on the court and ready for their game. They choose teams, with Trev and Drew ending up on the same team. With the two pros working together, their team wins quickly and easily.

“It’s not fair for both of you to be on the same team. And Drew, you got better!” Al shouts. 

“Yeah, well what did you expect?” Drew asks.

“LOL!” Trev laughs.

Trev and Drew do their special handshake, right hand fingers touching first then each grips the other’s fingertips before they pull each other in to touch chests. Drew is much taller than Trev’s five-foot-six frame and it’s a little awkward, but they laugh it off.

“Wow! You killed us, Drew! You gotta teach us those moves,” Kevin shouts. He’s about five-foot-eight, the biggest of the other boys, but still nowhere near Drew’s height.

“Of course he would. Look at his size,” Jesse says. His two arms are outstretched and waving up and down, indicating Drew’s height.

“Boy, I want to go to basketball camp with you next year for sure,” Randy agrees.

“Man, you’re so much faster and stronger than you used to be, and you’re huge. It’s a little weird, bro...” Andy chimes in and waits a little before high-fiving Drew and shouting. “…and cool! I can’t wait to get bigger. I’m thinking of starting on some protein shakes. What do you think of that?”

“Nah, I don’t think so. You’ll get there ... at some point,” Drew laughs and does a 360 degree turn.

He jumps, throws the ball with a flick of his right wrist from the three-point marker, and the ball goes in the basket.

“Whoa!” the boys say in unison.

“Maybe all of us should play against Drew?” Trev says. The boys nod their heads in agreement.

I love this new me! Drew thinks.

Before the boys leave, they agree that they are going with Drew to the basketball camp next year.

“If it means that I grow as tall, get as fast and strong as you, Drew, I’m there!” Jesse says. The others laugh at his banter, but each is secretly thinking the same thing.

As 6 p.m. rolls around, the boys leave for home one by one as Drew and Trev wait for Trev’s mother. They sit on the court and talk some more about their first day back at school.

“The gang really misses you already,” Trev says. 

Drew smiles but has mixed feelings.

“I miss everyone too but I’m happy at Longwood ... although...” 

Trev looks up, “Although what?”

“Well, there is one guy that tried to mess with me today.” 

“Really? Is he crazy?” Trev says looking astonished.

“He’s pretty big too.” Drew retells the incident with the bully, “I got so angry and pushed him so hard, he slid, I swear, must be a few feet across the ground. He looked like a moron. Everyone was pointing and laughing at him as he ran away. I know he felt stupid.”

“I’m sure he won’t mess with you anymore, especially if you pushed him that hard.” Trev cocks his head to look at Drew.

“You sure it was that far or do you just feel like it was because you were so mad?”

“I don’t know...” Drew says and looks at his watch, avoiding Trev’s question. “Hey! It’s 6:05 p.m. Aunt Lynn is late! I was supposed to be home by six. I can’t get into trouble for being late after Lexi blabbing to Mom about that bully earlier. Call Aunt Lynn and let her know we’ll walk home and to pick you up from there. I’ll call Mom and let her know I am on my way home now too and that Aunt Lynn is late.”

Trev calls his Mom but gets no answer. He leaves a voicemail message for her to pick him up at Drew’s house, and they start walking toward the Barret’s. Meanwhile, Drew calls his Mom, who answers and is on her way home from work.

“Okay. I will be home soon too. Thanks for letting me know. See you soon,” she says.

They head west toward Drew’s home, going the back route by the lake, which avoids the main road traffic and is a little quicker. Two houses from Drew’s home, Trev notices something awkward-looking, bobbing in and out of the water about ten yards offshore.

“What is that?” He taps Drew on the shoulder and points.

Drew squints as he tries to detect what it could be. However, the sun is beginning to set and the glare from the lake’s surface is too bright.

“I don’t know.” Drew decides they’re pretty close to his house now and a few more minutes won’t hurt. “Let’s go and see.” He jumps in the water and begins to swim toward it.

“I don’t think so, man. This is no time to go exploring. Come back,” Trev shouts in a troubled voice.

Drew stops swimming and turns to face Trev on shore, wading in place, and shouts back, “Come in and stop complaining!” he laughs. By this time, Drew is about ten feet away from the object. He turns back toward it and starts swimming again. He gets close enough to see what it is and begins treading water in place again, reaching out toward the unusual object.

“It’s just a tattered coconut,” Drew shouts, laughing while raising the coconut above his head.

He squints as a streak of light flashes in front of him and then he feels something move beneath him.

“What the heck?” Drew utters to himself.

All of a sudden, he hears a splash as if something is vaulting toward him from behind. He feels something seize his left arm and yank him underwater. Bewildered, Drew shuts his eyes and feels water rush up his nostrils. What is happening?

He does not hear Trev screaming for help. He does not see the fear in Trev’s eyes. He does not see, feel, or hear anything. He is being taken somewhere and he cannot do anything about it. He tries to fight back. His brain is willing, but his body won’t respond. This is like a bad dream. What’s happening? Please help me.

He remembers the nightmares he had as a younger boy of a monster taking him from his family. He would wake up screaming, drenched in sweat, and his mom cradling him in her arms, telling him it was only a dream. Well, this is no dream. This is really happening and I can’t get away from it.

For the first time in a long while, Drew is scared. He kicks, trying to get loose, but he cannot get away. He is strong, but whatever has a hold on him is stronger. He is being pulled further and further under the water. He feels alone. What is going to happen to me? What am I going to do? His mind is racing. He is panicking and having problems breathing. He has no strength. He cannot move anymore. He feels nothing. Then, there is silence, no more thoughts. No more kicking. Just darkness.

About the author

I am a Bahamian-born author of four children's books and one book of fiction, Return to Isle of the Shallows, a middle grade/coming-of-age/YA fantasy adventure. I have two adult children and live in Florida with my husband, Gregg. I graduated from Rider University in NJ. view profile

Published on August 14, 2019

Published by

90000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Coming of Age

Reviewed by

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