okay, a book in which a group of girls get stranded on a “forbidden” island in the thai archipelago with no real supplies or survival know-how and must fend for themselves and deal with the stresses of conflicting personalities and heat, wildlife, lack of food and other perils? lord of the flies with lady-parts??
oh, sign me up right now.
and yet… this one didn’t do it for me. not as much as i had hoped. before i read beauty queens, i thought that was what that book would be like, it turned out to be a completely different kind of book, and i loved the life out of it, and this one is more along the lines of what i was hoping for from b.q., and yet i am still unsatisfied.
there are some good things. i am always grateful when a book like this aimed at a younger audience doesn’t shy away from the horrific realities that would actually confront young girls stranded on an island: injuries, death, chiggers, odor, the necessity of latrines, menstruation.
it was good to see that those details were not overlooked or prettified. and there were some characters with know-how, so there were kind of a lot of facts dropped, sometimes clumsily, into conversation about jungle survival and how to test for edible plants (although any edibility test that ends with step nine: wait five hours without eating anything else, and if you aren’t sick or dying, it’s edible. worries me. i do not like that “if.” i thought the first 8 very cautious and sensible steps would prevent me from dying??? no??)
their ostensible “adult” is a scottish woman they all admire because she is so gorgeous and glamorous, but gorgeous and glamorous do not go very far in the wilderness, especially when g&g is working through her own personal problems and finds it easier to take solace in smuggled whiskey and hallucinogenic plants. so the girls are on their own.
and they are mostly no good at survival.
two of them band together with g&g, and spend their time putting on makeup and doing their hair and getting wasted. one girl is dead, one is injured, one has lost her glasses (pppiiiiggggyyyy!), one of them just can’t stop with the science facts, one is super-strong but meek, and our narrator can’t seem to rally everyone together and comes across as bossy and ineffectual to the other girls. then there are the younger girls. okay, i know this takes place during the vietnam war, so it is a different time and maybe i am just more accustomed to reading about modern-day kids, but there is a ten-year-old girl in this with an imaginary friend, who clings to her teddy bear, and is unaware that View Spoiler »santa claus « Hide Spoiler isn’t real. now, the teddy bear i get – in a crisis situation, you cling to whatever you have that is familiar, and a bunch of the younger girls have teddies with them. but the imaginary friend thing predates the trauma, and i don’t know – do ten-year-old girls still have imaginary friends? i feel like that is the social crutch of a much younger girl.
for me, this did have enough of the physical danger to hold my interest, but not nearly enough of the psychological. it wasn’t as tense and immediate as i think it could have been. some characters got lazy, some got bitchy, some got dead, but it lacks what is truly great about L.O.T.F., where we see the characters falling under the influence of their freedom and their new reality, replacing their civilized moral code with one older and wilder. but this isn’t that kind of story.
it’s fine, it’s just not great. it is based on a true story, so with that what you will, and it is an ARC. so maybe the little inconsistencies will work themselves out or maybe the story will somehow get tighter, but for now, it is just a little three-
star cat book from which i had anticipated a five.