Title: The Castaways
Author: Jessika Fleck
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: April 3rd 2017 by Entangled TEEN
*I received an ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion in any way!*
(via 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 Castaways is about a girl named Olive Maxi Gagmuehler who gets bullied because of her name. She’s an insecure girl who lets a trio of three mean girls treat her like crap (they’re pretty bad I was shocked), she doesn’t like confrontation and rather runs away than face things head on. She goes to the pirate-inspired Castaway Carnival which has a maze where kids got lost and didn’t return from before. As Olive is in the maze on the run from one of her bullys, she crawls through a tunnel and randomly (or should I say magically) lands on an island. There’s other teens who have been stuck there for years, not aging as time apparently stands still.
This book was said to be similar to or inspired by Lord of the Flies but I haven’t read that one so I can’t really say!
I liked the writing of this book, it was very simple, there was nothing overly poetic/lyrical/too descriptive/metaphorical about it but that’s not a negative thing! It was very easy to get through. I believe I read this book in 2 (?) days. It was a bit difficult to get into it at first but by the end I really enjoyed it.
When I first read the synopsis I thought this book had an interesting premise and I was quite excited. I also got sent an excerpt and I thought I was going to fall in love with the story and the characters!
I wasn’t necesseraily disappointed, I just felt like this book had so much more potential and was kind of underdeveloped. I wouldn’t say it was predictable but… it kind of was at times! I don’t really know how to explain it, something was just off. I feel like the book could have been so much more intriguing and action-packed with plot twists and betrayals and all that jazz!
I wasn’t sure what to rate this book at first because I had (or still have) mixed feelings about it. It wasn’t bad or anything and I would say that I liked it but there were a few things that irked me.
There were a few cliché tropes and lines mostly from the main character that received some eye rolling from me. Let’s start with the romance. When Olive arrives at the island and sets eyes on Will there’s that immediate spark between them and about two days later she has already developed a major crush on him. They’ve barely talked or had a meaningful conversation but suddenly they kiss and pour their hearts out to each other when it’s only been A WEEK since they’ve met. Hello insta-love!
Olive is your typical anxious, insecure and naive main character. She’s been bullied because of her name (Olive as in the food and Gagmuehler as in to gag) for years and feels ashamed of it. But suddenly an attractive boy she just met doesn’t react and appears indifferent when she tells him her name and oh wait, he’s right, it’s just a name! How did I not realise it before! And then they kiss. Huh. If that isn’t chliché I don’t know what is.
(NOTE: I am by no means supporting or undermining bullying here! What I’m trying to say is that Olive tells Will her full name expecting a disgusted/ridiculing reaction. He tells her “It’s just a name.” and she suddenly forgets all about the issues she had with the name because a boy tells her so!)
Clichés aside, by the second half/third of the book it actually turned into a very enjoyable read for me.
Firstly, I liked how the group as a whole developed. Olive meets Will’s group (the Lions) when she first arrives at the island. They have lived on the island for years and treat each other like family. They are wary of Olive at first but she proves her place in their group. As the story goes on the group develops a really tight bond and some lasting friendships have formed.
Secondly, the book actually had a good message at the end. Each of the characters went through some form of character development. They’ve changed and learned to accept themselves for who they are. I especially love the journey that Olive went through. She has been bullied for so long, always running away from her problems instead of dealing with them and generally being a nervous, panicked mess. The experiences she makes on the island help her face her problems head-on! She realises that running away is not the answer and discovers a new, more confident version of herself!
And lastly, the story finally picked up or at least I felt like something not-so-predictable was happening as they were figuring out a way OUT of the island! I think it was around 70% when I was hooked and couldn’t stop reading! Some secrets were discovered, some things about the island and the people stuck on it were revealed and figured out and it was very intriguing.
Overall, it was a solid read. It had some cliché parts but the last third of the book made up for it. I also really liked the ending!
I didn’t mean to point out so many negative aspects because this book truly wasn’t bad! I guess it’s just always easier to find things that you dislike than explain what you actually liked about a book! :’)
.5 (3.5 out of 5 stars)
Don’t miss my author interview with Jessika Fleck for the YA Reads ‘The Castaways’ blog tour coming to you on Friday!
I am currently in Munich so this post is pre-written/scheduled. I will be replying to comments once I am back home! Don’t think I’m ignoring you, I would NEVER! 😛