In case you missed it, I also did an interview with the author here. Definitely check it out, particularly if you’re interested in The Castaways!
Overall Score: 9/10
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Survival
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: April 3, 2017
Source: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Book Summary (From 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.
When I first started reading The Castaways, I wasn’t sure what to expect. A few hours later, I was turning the last page. The Castaways is an absolute gem of a book and I loved it.
The story does begin with a very brutal, slightly difficult to read bullying scene. We see Olive, the main character, both at home with her family and at school with her tormentors. The juxtaposition really drives home how the bullying has affected every aspect of her life. My heart immediately went out to Olive from page one. After an incident involving hair clippers and bullies, Olive runs into the maze at the Castaway Carnival and finds herself on a deserted island, far from the world she knew.
On the island, Olive meets others who have been stranded there throughout the decades. I don’t want to spoil any major plot points but I really enjoyed the plot overall (although it was a lot darker than I’d originally expected). The pacing is excellent and I was constantly engaged.
A good portion of why I loved this book was the secondary characters (okay, mostly just the lions). They were all written very well and I enjoyed the dynamics between them. The author did a wonderful job of showing us the relationships between the characters rather than telling us. Watching the lions, one of the two tribes on the island, adjust to having Olive dumped on them was actually rather fun. The Lions truly felt like a family, with all the bickering, understanding, and love.
Sometimes I would think that a longer time period had passed than actually had since some developed occurred quickly. Then I remembered my personal experiences at sleep-away camp (a poor substitute but the closest I’ve ever been to Olive’s situation). I thought of how much we all changed and grew, and then the timeframe didn’t seem quite so difficult to believe.
Now that I’ve establish that I enjoyed the writing, the plot, and the secondary characters, it’s time to talk about my favorite part of the story – Olive Maxi Gagmuehler (what a name!). What I really liked about her is that she wasn’t a special snowflake. Had she not encountered the other individuals on the island, she probably would have perished. She gets panic attacks and makes some pretty serious mistakes. Olive is at the island because she was running away. Olive is also smart, empathetic, and brave. Some of the decisions she makes are incredibly difficult and adult ones to make. Full disclosure- I absolutely cried when reading about one of them. As for the romance, all I will say is that I loved how it developed and the choices that Olive made.
The Castaways was a wonderful read and I can’t wait to add it to my collection. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to read a good young adult novel or anyone interested in reading a wonderful book about finding yourself.
*Warning – this book does contain some graphic descriptions of bullying.