So I really liked The Women (Boyle's book about FLW's life and loves) and thought it might be interesting to read Boyle's take on environmentalism and our (speaking for humanity at large) responsibility towards other creatures.
Unfortunately, I found this novel to be at best boring, at worst preachy, and overall just fairly uninteresting. I get that Boyle was trying to say something profound about the ways that people a)affect the natural order and the world and b)should make efforts to ameliorate our damage and c)there are shades of grey and dispute over what is the best course of action. Clearly he nods towards the argument that attempts to "fix" or "repair" our effects are unnecessary and may not work, however in the end Alma is the heroine and the argument stands that we should try to return things to their natural order.
This was written in the same vein as Carl Hiassen's work (the only two of which I have read are Hoot and Lucky You). I maintain that Hoot was the best of the lot (including this book), but maybe that is just because I am less critical of a YA book.
Way too much of the novel was contrived and melodramatic. Alma should not (and there was no need for her to) have dated Dave. This did not add complexity or depth to either of their characters or relationship, it was simply another scene in which Boyle could present Dave as an obnoxious overbearing jerk (and again, why couldn't he be at least partially sympathetic? When, in life, do we ever encounter characters that are so clearly black and white? So clearly good or evil?). Similarly, it was unnecessary for all of Alma's ancestors to be single moms (and therefore for her to become a single mom). I was also not for a moment deceived: as soon as she puked the first time it was clear she had to be pregnant. Alma should not have run into Anise et al at the Micah Stroud concert; the SAME GIRL WHO ASKED ABOUT MUDSLIDES should not have been the one to fall to her death in a mudslide. So many plot pieces were just too convenient for plausibility or even good entertainment.
The text was also over-written. Instead of being descriptive, I found it to be just boring: "he gets to his feet, digs out his plastic water bottle for a long hissing squeeze of filtered water from the reverse-osmosis tank he installed in the kitchen at home, aqua vita, then tucks it away and starts back up the trail." Perfect example of my often (unfortunately probably overused) criticism of masturbatory writing. Sentences such as the above are not written for the pleasure of the reader; they are solely for the author's own amusement and delight. Along these lines, I was also annoyed by the chapter titles. I wanted to just send Boyle an email already to congratulate him for being able to look up the Latin names in his biology textbook.
Finally (and I will admit to being still over-sensitive after reading Greer last week), the male/female relationships were so unbelievably stereotypical and offensively chauvinistic. Alma is unable to contradict LaJoy on their date because he "was the expert here. He was the one paying--this was a date, a dinner date--and she had to defer to him." and Anise (like all women) can "sulk and brood for days on end over some imagined slight or a thing so inconsequential--what somebody said to her at work, the color of the dress she knew she shouldn't have bought--as to make him question her sanity" What the fuck? Really? Clearly sulking and brooding is not a solely female characteristic and most women have more important things to worry about than the color of an unwanted dress.
Overall there was nothing poignant and no astute observations. The characters were flat and uninteresting and the whole thing resolved itself too neatly. The best point Boyle makes is that chaos will win out and that people cannot control or repair nature (and that maybe we should just respectfully leave it alone as best we can: "how much better would it be if nobody ever came out here and the islands could exist in the way they always had. Or should have."); unfortunately the blatantly contrived and forced text undermines this concept.