Maine seems to grow stories as naturally and abundantly as it does blueberries, as if written words were the expression of the effect on the literary imagination of the air and light and sea and rocks and woods themselves.

Maine-set books for children and teenagers occupy a particularly rich literary landscape, just as long-ago Maine summers are an integral part of many adults’ happiest memories: Alice Rumphius plants her lupines by the sea; Lizzie Bright goes against the tide on Malaga Island; Sal picks blueberries and goes clamming in Brooksville; and, more recently, the five intrepid kids of G.A. Morgan’s “Five Stones” trilogy sail off to the mysterious island of Ayda, which lies somewhere off Mount Desert Island.

Elizabeth Atkinson’s moving, enthralling new book, “The Island of Beyond,” feels like another new and ready-made Maine classic, a future beloved favorite of young readers as well as older ones.

The setting is the eponymous tiny, imaginary island called Beyond, which lies in the North Country in the middle of a lake called Nevermore, the first of many tips of the hat to Edgar Allen Poe. The story begins when 11-year-old Martin, shy and introverted and addicted to video games, is sent up to spend a month with his elderly, wealthy Aunt Lenore, a distant relative. As his father leaves Martin at her enormous shambles of a house, the real reason for this banishment is made clear: He’s supposed to get on Aunt’s Lenore’s good side so she’ll leave the place to Dad in her will. Then Dad goes back to Delaware and leaves Martin to fend for himself, with only his tiny stuffed pocket mouse, Mr. Little (as in Stuart), for company.

The book is narrated by Martin, whose first-person voice is pitch-perfect, earnestly idiosyncratic, both smart and vulnerable, but never annoyingly precocious or whiny. Through his timid, fish-out-of-water, often unintentionally funny point of view, Atkinson evokes Maine’s subtly mysterious quality of place, the darkness of the woods, that particular feeling of being out of the flow of time and far from everywhere else that makes all the best Maine stories inherently magical and compelling.

Beyond Island is populated by four misfits: eccentric, whimsical Aunt Lenore, who may or may not be senile; her companion and housekeeper, the stalwart Tess, who makes Martin do chores and feeds him according to her own strict schedule; old Uncle Ned, Lenore’s brother, an artist who comes and goes; and Sam, who calls himself Solo, a boy Martin’s age who lives in a tree and has cinnamon-colored skin and who knows how to swim, canoe, climb trees and forage. Also in residence are Lenore’s raven, Poe, and a strange small faceless figure dressed in black whose poignant identity isn’t revealed until late in the book.

Martin’s growing friendship with Solo forms the heart and soul of the book. The two boys are seemingly polar opposites, one domesticated and interior, the other savage and independent. But they’re drawn to each other nonetheless, if only because they’re the only kids in sight. As they become closer, their similarities become increasingly apparent – they’re akin, both lonely and lost, true-hearted and warm-blooded. They need each other, but they come close to losing each other when their newfound bond is tested.

“The Island of Beyond” is simultaneously a coming-of-age story, a love story and an adventure story. True to all three genres, Martin, aptly dubbed “Martian” by Solo, is transformed by his summer on Beyond. He comes to a new understanding of his place in the world, awakens to his identity and forges his own sense of belonging that has nothing to do with his parents’ view of him.

The trick of the first person is to convey more than the character himself knows, and Atkinson manages this sleight of hand with unerring consistency, never condescending to either Martin or the reader, but allowing us to see things Martin can’t, to know more than he does about what he’s perceiving and feeling and describing. As he grapples with the wild lake and the deep woods of Maine, and with the gnarled, tender-hearted people he finds there, I found myself cheering for him, from the action-packed beginning to the heartwarming, buoyant ending.

Kate Christensen is a novelist and memoirist ( whose most recent book, “How to Cook a Moose,” won the 2016 Maine Literary Award for Memoir.

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