This is a book written for, I'd say, about 11+ year olds although there are deeper meanings which may only be detected by older minds. This was the book I had permanently in my bag that I read on my less-than-satisfactory 30 minute bus journey to school (putting emphasis on journey; I only live ten minutes away!). With the setting of a strange foreign island in mind, it was a good book for escapist reading.
In my opinion, the book got better as it went on, with the best bits coming dangerously close to the end. I say dangerously as you'd want something keeping the reader's hands glued to the book, right? The 'before bit' wasn't boring as such. It was readable, but it was more of a time-filler than I just really loved reading it.
One thought that did cross my mind when I finished it was that although the boys do eventually get saved, are their souls saved or just their bodies? Experiencing all this at 10-12 years old, could they really live the rest of their lives as if it'd never happened? Although I didn't find the book particularly thrilling, it is an excellent display of how a carefully built-up and regulated (by the law) society could crumble into anarchy. This is shown by even though the main character, Ralph, tries his best when they first crash land onto the island to keep everything as sane and as normal as possible, by the end, he is fleeing desperately for his own life from war-painted savages that used to be well-brought-up young schoolboys. Although you may say that even after the best efforts of the more mature of the boys, these are children with no understanding of the importance of keeping a fire going, or having sanitation and if you had adults in this position, they wouldn't have ended up the way they did. But adults and children are both humans, humans who will eventually respond in the same way as each other in any extreme situation.
Another thing represented is self-preservation. It is shown most obviously when the twins, Sam and Eric (Samneric) leave Ralph's 'tribe' for Jack's. Although I think they do realise it's not the right thing to do (from the way they pass information to Ralph after leaving him), it's for self-presentation. It is hinted at that the twins were tortured in some minor (or possibly even major) way for information and results in them joining the less rational 'tribe'. They did this out of fear of pain and wanting to keep themselves in a good enough condition.
Something else that harrowed me throughout the book was the way the anonymous 'boy with the mark on his face' was killed by the accidental fire near the beginning. The newly stranded boys managed to kill another with their carelessness, yet they seemed virtually unaffected. I gathered that this was quite a young boy who would've suffered a terribly scary death, but the not yet atrocity-hardened boys carried on as if little had happened.
Finally, something about the way the man who came to rescue the boys thought the war paint, spears and bloodthirsty yells was all a game really got to me. It felt like I was there and what he said irritated me somehow; like he, the adult, thought he had it sussed in a second and even though I would've wanted to explain, there wouldn't have been enough words or enough time. I think I would've burst into tears and pummeled his stomach and screamed at the top of my voice to get everything that'd been bottled up out.
Anyway, after reviewing this book I have realised how many complex 'under-morals' were going on and I now think that this book deserves a 4/5, not because of the actual story, but because of the essay-worthy (for want of a better word) ideas that were being hilighted throughout the book.