The Castaways

By Jessika Fleck

This book captivated me by the cover alone, so when the author offered me a copy to review, I pounced. I could not wait to read it. A combination of Lord of the Flies and maybe even Heart of Darkness, though set on the island from lost, dropped out of time. Sounds cool, right?

Summary30973550

The Castaway Carnival: fun, mysterious, dangerous.

Renowned for its infamous corn maze… and the kids who go missing in it.

When Olive runs into the maze, she wakes up on an isolated and undetectable island where a decades-long war between two factions of rival teens is in full swing.

Trapped, Olive must slowly attempt to win each of her new comrades’ hearts as Will—their mysterious, stoically quiet, and handsome leader—steals hers.

Olive is only sure about one thing: her troop consists of the good guys, and she’ll do whatever it takes to help them win the war and get back home.

Musings

Olive Maxi Gagmuehler has been bullied her entire life. Her name is the main source of her punishment, and a trio of mean girls at school have been tormenting her, even torturing her, using it as an excuse. When Olive lashes out, then runs in terror, she finds herself on a mysterious island, lost in time with other children from long ago.

The idea refreshing and bold; children, from different decades, end up on this mysterious island. Take Neverland, and turn it sour.  Each of them was running away from something, for the most part actual people, or in Tilly’s case the bombs if WWII, which sent them running for safety. And then, they were here. But while the Island might be safe from their bullies and fears, it offers new problems. Thirteen children trying to understand what put them there, and how to survive. Split into two factions at war with each other, Olive must find her place before she can hope to make a change.

The metaphor here obvious:  You can’t run away from your problems, you need to face them and move on. And this lesson has very physical repercussions on the island.  It might be a little preachy, but it’s an important one to learn.

While the plot was exciting and new, it was the clichés that got me. A friend posted a “YA trope bingo” the same day I started reading The Castaways, and I filled my squares quickly. Bullied MC? Check. Token minority best friend? Check. Olive falls for a boy that she shouldn’t fall for? Double check. There were a lot of cliché-ed lines that pulled me out of the story.

But while the clichés were there, they worked. The relationship between Olive and Will, while at first seeming forced, actually built into something healthy and supportive. And Olive being bullied, and growing and fighting back, was actually a major plot of the novel and so, so important to read. It’s amazing to see her strength grow!

I have to give it to Fleck, she sure knows how to write tension. There are some scenes in there that make me really clutch my tablet as I read faster and faster. She makes us really care about everyone, especially the tiny kiddos. And the lesson Olive learns is so important and profound. That, and the lesson Will learns too.

And it’s refreshing to see a well written, enjoyable novel that stands alone! With a happy ending! Gosh I love happy endings!

All in all, a fun read, if a little clichéd. Perfect for lovers of YA!

Published April 3rd 2017 by Entangled TEEN

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