Book Review: Zia

O’Dell, Scott. Zia. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin, 1976.

The fate of Karana, heroine of Island of the Blue Dolphins, is revealed in this moving story of her niece Zia. Finding her aunt is the strongest force in Zia’s life, and in the hope of doing so, Zia moves to the Santa Barbara Mission, where she plans to go the Island where someone has seen her aunt–still alive after 18 years. Zia and her brother attempt the voyage in a small boat, but are forced to turn back. Karana’s eventual rescue makes a profound effect on Zia, who is caught between two worlds–the world of her mother’s tribal past and the strange present world of the California missions. Although Karana’s years of isolation have made it impossible for her to speak with anyone, she manages to give Zia what the girl needs most, the precious gift of freedom.

I love love love Island of the Blue Dolphins. After reading the facts about the story behind the novel, I was interested in finding out how faithful the sequel would be. It turns out to be pretty dead on, except that I have seen nothing about this niece and nephew actually existing. Karana herself was found, but not by family, so when Zia and her brother set out by boat to find their aunt and bring her back to the mainland, I was very surprised. But (and this isn’t really a spoiler because the book description above from the author’s website gave it away first) the trip turns out to be busted up when the children are taken aboard a whaling ship and forced into servitude. They escape, but Zia doesn’t stop trying to find someone who will rescue her aunt.

I liked this book because it gives another side to the same story. Zia starts within a year before Karana is rescued, but it mentions the history of what happened to Karana’s family and friends after they were taken from the island. That’s something I was left wondering after the first book. And it finishes with what happened after Karana’s rescue, which is another question not answered in the first book.

Both books start with a young girl and her younger brother at the beach- Karana and Ramo, Zia and Mando. Having read the first, I liked the parallel setting up of the story in the second. Karana and Zia are similar, and so are Ramo and Mando. They live very different lives, but because I already care about Karana, and because Zia is like her aunt, I automatically started out with a great fondness for Zia. And because Ramo was killed by wild dogs, I automatically care for Mando and hoped he would fare better than his uncle.

I liked this book almost as much as the original. If I ever read the first book again, I will definitely follow it with the sequel. I read each within about 24 hours, including sleeping and eating and such in between. If that’s not a testament to how much I enjoyed the books, then I don’t know what is. I have a coworker who doesn’t like Scott O’Dell, but having read these two I would like to read more of his books in the future.

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