Title: The Castaways
Author: Jessika Fleck
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Publish Date: 4.3.17
Fair warning: this review comes after reading this book for six hours non-stop. It was that good!
This is the official summary, per Goodreads:
“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.”
The first thing I want to mention is the gorgeous cover. I know you can’t judge a book by its cover, but with this story you can – it’s as mesmerizing as the tale within.
The Castaways starts with the female protagonist, Olive Maxi Gagmuehler, being tortured by a trio of girls at her school. The way Jessika described how Olive was chipped apart and weathered bit-by-bit was beautiful. I wanted to cry for her. I almost did cry for her. What those girls did was wrong, but Jessika did a fantastic job at drawing out intense emotions. I felt for Olive and the situation, and was routing for the innocent girl who was “losing her smile.”
Amid a bullying incident, Olive lands on the island. The world building was fantastic. I felt like I was right there with the characters, smelling the ocean water and walking the forest. I also know how to open a coconut now, which is a huge bonus.
The characters were wonderful, likeable, and endearing! And Will…sigh. I tried to jot notes while reading, and I literally wrote “swoon.” It was hard not to like Will and his strong but compassionate approach to Olive and the rest of the group. He wore the leader title well, despite his own mysterious past, and was everything you’d want in a male protagonist.
Without going into too much detail, the island is at war when Olive gets there but the conflict is magnified soon after. I enjoyed the buildup to the climax. I had an inkling of the plot twist, but was surprised to see how similar it was to Olive’s initial situation. The magnitude was both shocking and heart-wrenching, but a message that resonated with me – people aren’t bound to who they were. People can change.
The character growth in this story, with all characters, was great! Jessika made sure to show not just Olive and Will’s character development, but worked in the side characters' as well. I appreciated getting to see the resolution for Bug, Charlie, Jude, and Lewis, as well as Duke and his group.
The Castaways was one of those stories that sticks with you. If you haven’t read it, you should pick it up now. It’s well worth the read!