By: Ann Kelley
Review by: Kylie Comfoltey
This book follows the story of 14-year-old Bonnie MacDonald who, with a group of eight fellow Amelia Earhart Cadets and one last-minute stand-in "leader," embarks on a three day camping excursion to an island off the coast of Thailand. This gorgeous island of Koh Tabu seems like paradise, but everything falls apart when the island is hit by a terrible storm the first night of their adventure, leaving the smallest of the junior cadets dead and stealing away most of the group's meager supplies.
The cadets are left to fend for themselves in a battle against harsh rains, powerful winds, frightening animals, and relentless nagging bugs with only the clothes on their backs, the food they can scavenge and the constant worry that they will never be found.
If thoughts of Lord of the Flies didn't immediately pop into your head while you read that, you must not have been forced to read it as a young, vulnerable middle-schooler. You lucky fool!
But forget Lord of the Flies. Lost Girls is inspiring, heartbreaking, frustrating and believable. My initial thought when starting the book went something like, "Great. This girl is going to bother me with her snotty teenage attitude." The writing seemed weak, the storytelling wasn't fabulous. Of course, I pressed on and I can honestly say: it got better.
For one, the writing seemed to improve through the book. Maybe it's just that the story became more gripping and the characters became more real? The stream of consciousness approach to telling this story, mixed with brutally honest entries from Bonnie's journal, is what at first annoyed me, but what eventually caused me to feel more involved in the slowly unfolding understandings, mindset and concerns of a marooned person.
The beef of this story is in the characters.
Bonnie is not always a likeable character, but she is realistic. In a book like this, I prefer realistic over likeable--and I actually did like her. Not many people could remain likeable under the circumstances these girls find themselves lost in. For goodness sake, Bonnie is only 14! Malnourished, filthy, hungry, injured, endlessly worried and exhausted; I would be at my worst!
I loved Jas. She is what I wish I would be in similar circumstances. She is knowledgeable, clever, kind and positive. She never gives up or gives in to despair. She's a total glass-half-full girl and is clearly the glue of the group.
Naturally I despised Mrs. Campbell, and I desperately wanted to slap some sense into May and Arlene. But Mrs. Campbell. Layla. She is horrible. She used up her free pass on day one. She is selfish, neglectful, irresponsible and full of lies. I don't play well with liars.
This is a story of survival, courage, and hope. It begs the question, "What would you do?" Or rather the question, "What do you hope you'd do?"
Guess you'll have to read it and let me know!
Drugs/Alcohol: Mild to moderate. Layla is a drug addict and an alcoholic. The girls drink beer at one point.
Violence: Mild. There is death and injury, but no real violence.