The Castaways

The Castaways

by Jessika Fleck


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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.

But victory may require more betrayal, sacrifice, and heartbreak than she's ready for.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781544155555
Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date: 02/27/2017
Pages: 300
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.67(d)

About the Author

Jessika Fleck is an author, unapologetic coffee drinker, and knitter — she sincerely hopes to one day discover a way to do all three at once. Until then, she continues collecting vintage typewriters and hourglasses, dreaming of an Ireland getaway, and convincing her husband they NEED more kittens. Her YA debut, THE CASTAWAYS (Entangled TEEN), is now available. Her next YA novel, THE OFFERING (Swoon Reads/Macmillan) is due out fall, 2018.

Read an Excerpt

The Castaways

By Jessika Fleck, Theresa Cole

Entangled Publishing, LLC

Copyright © 2017 Jessika Fleck
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63375-918-3


A Name

I used to have a smile. A real smile. All teeth. All cheeks. The kind that makes your eyes go squinty and pinches your nose.

But I lost it.

I've tried finding it — really I have — but it always comes off fake and forced, or, as my mom reminds me, like I'm in pain.

I blame my name.

My smile disappeared slowly, over time, like the old Jackson farmhouse in the field east of downtown.

God knows how long the place had been there. The fence was nothing but broken posts poking out of overgrown weeds. The once jolly red paint on the house had peeled and chipped away, leaving only rotting wood.

It had started with kids daring each other to go in and steal old doorknobs, broken dishes, and other unidentifiable, rusted treasures. Then the windows went — a fun Friday night in Hillings was a drinking game of throwing rocks at the glass: you miss, you drink.

The thick front door disappeared. Next, the shutters went missing, along with much of the interior, forcing one side of the roof to collapse in on itself. Before long, the place was gutted — its joy snatched away plank by plank during the night. What was once someone's home had become a moldy, decomposing shell. Then it was bulldozed to dust. Gone. Nothing to show for its existence except an empty, weedy, weedy field littered with soda cans and chip bags. Now it's a super-market attached to a mega church with a Subway sandwich shop in the lobby.

That's how it happened with me. First, they picked and prodded, threw stones, and pulled at my hair. Then, piece by piece, they stole it — my smile, my joy. Now I'm being bulldozed.

All because of a name: Olive Gagmuehler. A smelly food plus the word "gag," which quickly morphed into Olive McGaggy for funsies.

My middle name is Maxi. Once they got wind of this information, I was all variations of Maxi Pad from grades six through eight.

They're family names. I know — I should feel honored. But couldn't I have paid tribute to my great grandmothers in some other way? One that didn't predetermine my social fate?

Olive Maxi Gagmuehler.

Thank you, Mom and Dad.


A Norman Rockwell Moment

It's forty-five minutes before school, and my brother, my dad, and I sit at the breakfast table eating overcooked waffles that are basically large crackers. The sun casts a spotlight through the window, so I'm forced to squint across at my brother through the blur of my eyelashes.

"O-live! Stop hogging the syrup!"

My little brother's going through a growth spurt. At least, that's how Mom justifies his constant need for food.

"Jeez. Chill, buddy. Here, it's all yours." I push the syrup across the table. Lucky grins at the bottle, gazing at me through the amber glass, one eye scrunched shut. The weirdo then proceeds to pop the lid, dump the thing upside-down, and drown his waffle. Taking a heaping, sticky bite, he stops mid-chew, examining me with suspicious eyes.

"Hey, where's your black sweater? You're supposed to wear it today!" Damn it. Cute as he is, the eight-year-old sneak notices everything. It's spirit week. Today is "black sweater day." Something about "black out the Wrens." "You know I don't get into that stuff."

He snorts. "Well, I would."

"Then you can when you're in high school. But today, I'm wearing my white sweater." What he doesn't know is that my black sweater was stained with mustard when they tried to squirt it in my eyes.

"You know Olive's a rebel, Luke. She's not at all about the status quo," Dad cuts in, trying to relate to my "angsty teenage ways." I roll my eyes. He winks. I smile back.

Mom peeks her head in from behind the pantry door. "Where is your black sweater?" Great. Double interrogation. "I haven't seen it in a while."

"I-I must have left it at school in my gym locker."

"Olive —"

"I'm sorry. I forgot to grab it, but —"

"Oh! Wait —" Lucky jumps up, runs past Mom and straight to the hook where we keep our backpacks, furiously digging into his. He comes running back, waving a flier in his hand. Mouth still half full of slimy, syrupy waffle, he mumbles, spewing crumbs, "Look!" and thrusts the paper in my face. Then, pulling off his shoe and dumping whatever lives in there into his hand, he reveals a gold coin. "I also got this! It's a doom-bloom."

I hold my hand out and he tosses it in. "It's doubloon, weirdo. Pirate money."

"Yeah! Well, yesterday, we had assembly, and the carnival pirate guy said I could use it to get into the ship or the maze! Can we go? Pleeease?"

Mom, coffee cup in hand, joins us to investigate. "What's all this?"

Phew. If the sneak was good at anything, it was diversion. Black sweater forgotten. For now.

I tear a piece of waffle off with my fingers and dip it in syrup, staring down at the flier. "The frickin' Castaway Carnival." I nearly choke.

"Olive ..." Mom motions to Lucky like he's never heard such vulgar language.

Dad snorts behind his mug.

"What?" I lower my voice. "That place is a death trap."

The Castaway Carnival is held one weekend a year and is known for its over-the-top pirate themes and world record-holding corn maze where children disappear. Last year, it was a nine-year-old boy. But he wasn't the first. Back in the sixties, when the carnival had first opened, two high-school boys also went missing. The same way. Vanished.

She gives me her evil eye, tucking a piece of dark, short hair behind her ear. "We promised him," she sing-songs. "Besides, there's a logical explanation for where those kids went. They just haven't found them yet." But the worry lines between her eyes say otherwise.

"Yeah ... Death trap," I sing-song back. She takes my plate away. I pull Hazel, our ten-year-old cat, up onto my lap and let her lick syrup drips off the table. Mom groans. She hates it because it ruins any hope she has of a Norman Rockwell moment.

"Can we go, Olive? Can we?" Lucky is literally licking his plate clean. Mom groans again. "You pro-missss-ed," he begs, stretching the word out as far as possible.

Yes, I had. Months ago. I'd needed his last piece of gum before school. Total desperation move. I breathe in, then release a long exhale before I answer. "All right." I hand the paper back to him. "When's the big day?"


I stare at my parents.

They stare back.

The three of us know they're working late.


I sigh. "Fine. I guess I can take you by myself. It'll be a first for both of us."

"Yes!" Lucky makes a fist, yanks his elbow in, then flings himself away from the table.

The coin, still in my hand — and heavier than a piece of junk like it should be — has a skull and crossbones embossed into it, and the word CASTAWAY along the top. I hold it up between my thumb and forefinger. "Forgetting something?"

Lucky stops in his tracks, pivots on his heels, and faces me.

He holds out his hands, smiling, all teeth.

I toss the coin back to him. "For the pirate ship, not the maze." No way will Lucky be the next kid lost to the Castaway Carnival.


The Girls Bathroom

Three hours later ...

I'm not here. I'm somewhere else. Anywhere else.

"Smash it in her face!" Hannah screeches through her teeth.

No. This isn't happening.

"Shove it up her nose, Les!" Dillon chants.

Laughter. Snickering. Evil heckling.


I cough, choke, and shake my face from side to side to avoid the blood clots that formerly resided in Lesley's upper vag region.

Oh God.

The thought tugs a familiar heat up from my stomach.

Lesley's straddling me with her volleyballer's thighs, waggling her used tampon across my face. Hannah and Dillon stand sentry on each of my wrists, their wedge-heeled shoes smashing my hands into the floor, pinching my fingertips.

Lesley squeezes the tampon.

It drips.

Small red tears plunk along the bridge of my nose. It's all rust and sour, and that acidic warmth rises higher into my throat.

"Stop!" I scream.

"What's that? I couldn't hear you, Olive. You know, over all of the gagging!" Lesley has that trademark sneer stretched across her face.

"Get off —"

The tampon's jabbed against my mouth. Thank God I clamp my lips closed. But the damage is done.

Stringy, wet cotton sticks to my face. I twist my head to the side to get it off me.

Then I puke.

A chorus of "Ewww!" is followed by the scattering of two pairs of wedges and one pair of lime green Chuck Taylor's.

I force myself up off the floor and wipe my mouth with my sleeve. The three of them stand in a line facing me like a firing squad. They're blocking the door. I realize there's a greater plan and I'm about to find out all about it.

In a split-second decision (probably my animal instincts to flee impending danger), I bound between them, shoving through Lesley and Dillon with my shoulders.

I don't make it far before my arms are grabbed. I'm not super tall or super strong, and I'm definitely not athletic, so they far outweigh me on all counts. Despite the losing battle, I jerk my arms, trying to rip free of their claws, when something snaps inside me. Maybe it's that animal instinct again, because, for the first time, I fight back.

"What?!" I scream. "What do you want from me?!" I shout with everything I have from someplace deep down inside me. It must unnerve them because there's a pause.

Somehow, I pull one arm free, ball my hand into a tight, solid fist, and punch Lesley straight in the nose. Sheer shock pales her face and she stumbles several steps back.

Blood dribbles out both of her nostrils.

My hand stings with electricity and pain.

I swear Lesley's eyes go red. "Oh, you're gonna pay for that, Olive McGaggy!" she yells, blood running over her top lip and into her mouth so her teeth are a horrible shade of pink-red.

Stunned at what I've done but knowing I should run for my life, I hesitate a beat too long. They catch me as I flounder, pinning me to the floor and assuming their usual and perfected positions of restraint. Lesley straddles my thighs and leans over, her face inches from mine, her blood, for the second time in mere minutes, dripping down my nose.

Then her eyes switch from wild to wide. I'm not sure which is more terrifying.

She clears her throat, spitting a bloody chunk to the side.

The bell rings.

"Time's up," she says, and Hannah and Dillon move away from me.

Lesley moves off me, but not before clutching hold of my jaw. "You just wait —" She smirks. "You won't even know what hit you."

Shoving my face away so my head hits the floor, she stands and leaves, her minions following.

I lay there, dazed.

The door swings shut.

I'm alone.

The stained, aquamarine tile of the girl's bathroom is hard and cold beneath my back. A pile of vomit sits festering much too close to my face, a bloodied tampon the cherry on top. Just as the stink oozes toward my hair, I manage to sit up with a grunt.

I glance down. A rusty red stain streaks across my uniform. I stand, wobble, then stagger toward the mirror and gasp.

It looks like I've slaughtered a pig with my bare hands and eaten its entrails. Instead, it's Lesley's period spattered all over my face and chest, on my lips.

I dry heave into the sink, my hands shaking, clutching the sides of the porcelain.

My throat tightens and my breath wheezes.

Not daring to make eye contact again with the mirror, I turn on the water, swiveling the knob all the way to the left. Steam rises from the sink as I work to lather the soap into a thick foam. I then slather my face, rubbing it raw. The water burns, but I don't care. The hotter the better.

More soap ... In my mouth, my eyes, my neck, I scrub between wheezing and hyperventilating. I spot my necklace, the one I never take off, the one I got from my favorite market stand in Portland. There's a splattering of blood across the simple, silver disk and the sight sends a coursing rage through my body. Using the sleeve of my sweater, I wash it clean. Then I cup my hands under the faucet and dump soapy water over my head and scrub, scrub, scrub with my nails until my hair is drenched and my face is so red my freckles vanish into my skin.

I stop and clutch my chest, trying to catch my breath. A string of high- pitched hisses leaves my throat in fast succession like a blocked flute. The painful tune continues but soon slows until I'm just breathing heavily, the whistling in my throat gone.

"Okay ... Hhhh ... I'm okay ..." I've managed to tame the attack. The monster.

Hair wet, it sticks to my scalp, soap suds showing where I didn't rinse well enough. My sweater, the white one, the one with the expensive, embroidered emblem on it (of course) is now soaked. The stains smear and seep outward like a bad tie-dye job. I reach into my backpack and switch it out for my maroon gym T-shirt, throwing the soiled sweater into the trash. Mom won't be happy — that's two sweaters in one semester — but the stains will never wash out, and I don't want any reminders of this moment.

Balancing on my toes, I step over the spreading puke, Lesley's tampon bleeding red into the chunks. The image of her with a bloody nose flashes behind my eyes.

What the hell did I just do?

Made things one hundred times worse, that's what.

At the door, I grab a couple paper towels and dab my face, hoping for more of a fresh-from-the-shower glow instead of the I-just-ran-a-few- miles-and-puked look I'm probably sporting. But when I go to toss them in the trash, I see a large clear tube smeared with red liquid. I lift it out. Across the front are the words "Stage Blood," and in smaller print, "Realistic qualities, including: metallic scent, deep color, and medium flowing viscosity." Then, under that, "Warning: Will stain most light materials and fabric. Test first. Not for use in mouth. Do not ingest."


I might be poisoned, but I'm oddly relieved.



When I enter English outlandishly late and wearing a gym shirt, Lesley sneers at me from the back row.

"Why's your hair wet, Olive?" she calls out. "Oh. Did you just get out of gym?" Everyone looks at me. Some laugh. Others whisper. Because they all know gym isn't until the end of the day.

I skulk to my seat, the desk behind Tawny. Wide-eyed, my best friend stares at me with her sweet, round face, cheeks flushed from walking across campus, sweat beading her forehead.

"What happened?" The familiar rasp of her voice hugs me.



I nod.

Throughout class, she keeps her eyes narrowed on Lesley, who only responds with eye rolling. Luckily, about the time it seems Tawny's taken her last eye roll silently, the bell rings.

"Asshats! They're total asshats!" Tawny has a mouth like a sailor, asshats being one of her three favorite expletives.

"I know." I stare ahead as we walk to our next class, cutting through the courtyard, the bizarrely-too-warm, October wind hitting me in the face. What I wouldn't do for five minutes of cool, Oregon coast sea spray.

"I mean, sweet Jesus! A used tampon? They can't get away with this!"

"T ... It was fake blood," I say, shaking my head, still a bit dazed.

"It doesn't matter!" She clamps her lips together, breathing out her nose until she calms down. "Olive. Seriously."

"What?" I glance over. Tawny's curly black hair whips around her head. Part Japanese, more parts Samoan, she's tall, strong, has a gorgeous, full face, and her skin is warm like sand on a beach. Tawny was teased as much as me growing up, maybe more. But she always held the power; she fought back and won. Somehow, despite my luck, she picked me as a best friend.

"You. Have. Got. To. Do. Something." She stares me down with her dark, all-knowing eyes, pulling the emotion from me like my mother does, somehow reaching in and plucking it out thorn by thorn.

Memories of the girls' bathroom, the blood I'd thought was so very real, the tampon, my stained sweater ... come clawing up my throat. I try choking it back, but several tears escape despite my hold on them.

"Listen," Tawny lowers her voice. "It sucks. This sucks. They suck. But you can't keep letting them walk all over you. It's not right." She spits the words out as if Lesley stands inches from her lips. "You have to tell someone."

I release a long sigh, then wipe my budding tears with the backside of my hand. "I know, I know. But ..." She side-eyes me. "I can't. Seriously, how could I possibly explain what happened to me today without an epic parental freak-out bomb over it?"

"But, you —"

"Like, mushroom cloud epic."

"Seriously, though —"

"You know they'd go to the principal, to the Trio's parents, the media ... It'd be all over the internet —"

"This is serious. Stop joking."


Excerpted from The Castaways by Jessika Fleck, Theresa Cole. Copyright © 2017 Jessika Fleck. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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