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.
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||3 MB|
|Age Range:||12 Years|
About the Author
Jessika Fleck is an author, an artist, and a knitter who sincerely hopes to one day discover a way to do all three at once. Until then, she continues collecting vintage typewriters and hourglasses and convincing her husband that they need one more kitten.
Read an Excerpt
By Jessika Fleck, Theresa Cole
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Jessika Fleck
All rights reserved.
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.CHAPTER 2
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."
"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.CHAPTER 3
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.
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.
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.
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.CHAPTER 4
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.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.5 Stars The Castaways by Jessika Fleck caught me by surprise. The blurb sounds amazing and I was ready to follow Olive Gagmuehler anywhere on her adventure. I thought I was going to like it, but then in chapter three we meet her tormentors... they were really cruel (and I'm really softhearted) so I thought that I might be adding this to my DNF pile. Luckily/unluckily she escapes her bullies via corn maze and ends up on the island. This book should have been tagged as a Peter Pan retelling, because it seriously felt like Neverland. Once Olive arrived on the island, I fell in love with it and couldn't put it down. It is one of those books where I was still reading at 3AM and only put it down because my husband was giving me the side-eye (understandable since he had to be up in 2 hours). This is a true adventure with well thought out characters. I enjoyed them all and would love a sequel/prequel/alterative POV... anything. I couldn't believe this was Jessika Fleck's first book, and I can't wait to read what she comes up with next. I received an advance reader copy of this book that I have chosen to review.
I recently got a free copy of The Castaways from author Jessika Fleck in exchange for an honest review. I wasn’t sure what to expect from it but ended up really enjoying it. It’s a contemporary fantasy read with a dystopian feel without the apocalyptic outer world. Olive is losing herself to the daily bullying she receives from a trio of mean girls in her high school. She considers her name the bane of her existence. When running away from an encounter with the girls at a local carnival, she gets lost in a corn maze and ends up on an undetectable island where two factions of lost kids from different eras are at war. Can Olive overcome her issues and help bring peace to the kids on the island? What is charismatic leader Will hiding? Will any of them ever find their way home? I was afraid this book might be a fail for me, thinking it would follow too closely in the footsteps of the many other dystopian reads before it. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find it had a plot of its own. It was a bit Lord of the Flies, but with its own personality. The growth of each character felt natural, as did the romance between Olive and Will. I was happy to see everyone move on from their painful pasts through cooperation and friendship. Olive and Will especially grew into the people they should have been had their histories been different. If you’re a fan of YA fantasy literature or magical islands with minds of their own, this should be on your TBR list. It was a fun read with a lot of heart, a dash of drama and an anti-bullying theme. Pick it up today.
I enjoy fantasy as much as the next person. In fact, I've reviewed many MANY fantasy novels on this site. But sometimes you need a change. You want someone to mix things up in a way you've never seen before. And Jessika Fleck totally delivered with this. Think Lord of the Flies meets Lost. Olive is always running from who she is. In fact, she is doing just that when she runs into a corn maze she's always been terrified of. And she's doing exactly that when she crawls off the trampled path and into another world--an island, to be more exact. A world where kids fend for themselves, and protect each other. They aren't protecting each other from wild animals or other likely threats, though. They are protecting each other from other kids. There are two clans, and if the other clan gets a hold of you? Well...don't let them. But not everything is as it seems, not to mention the island seems to have a mind of its own. I loved this book because of the complexity of the characters. No one is all good or all bad. They all have fears, they all have trust issues, and they all have to decide what is worth sacrificing for the greater good. And I loved every one of them. I was sucked in from the very beginning, and savored every page. Not only were the characters amazing, but Jessika Fleck has an amazing with words and set up the island in exquisite detail. I kinda wanted to move there! If you couldn't tell by now, I am giving The Castaways 5 out of 5 stars.
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review. Thanks to Entangled Teen and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review The Castaways by Jessika Fleck. Olive is relentlessly bullied by three girls she has named The Trio. She meets her friend Tawny at the pirate-themed traveling carnival after hours, so they won't be bothered by anyone. They decide to go into the corn maze, which has a mysterious and dangerous past. Teenagers have gone missing and never come out of the maze. Olive ends up going into the maze alone and, while running from bullies, she ends up being transported to a secluded island where no one ages. This island is completely surrounded by ocean as far as the eye can see and seems to be inescapable. Olive meets people on the island that are considered missing in real time. These teenagers were born long ago and have stayed teenagers and only have memories from decades past. Such as sixteen-year-old Tilly, who is from Sheffield England, 1940 and fifteen year old Lewis from 1953 Memphis, Tennessee. Olive discovers each of their stories and secrets and she eventually shares her own. They all realize that they transported to the island because they were running from something and they work together to find out how to face their problems and give each other the hope of returning home someday. I fell in love with the island inhabitants and relished the relationship between Will and Olive. This book is so much more complex than I thought it would be when I first began reading it. The complicated story line and dynamic characters all come together to make The Castaways an interesting read and the cover is perfect for this story, in more ways than one. 4.5 stars for the fantasy realism and lovable characters!
Olive has been terrorized by the trio for a long time, secretly hiding her pain from everyone, until she just wants to get away. When the yearly carnival comes to town, her brother is excited to go and Olive agrees to take him, despite the rumors surrounding the corn maze and the kids who have gone missing over the years. When the trio finds Olive at the carnival, Olive is desperate to escape, wildly running into the corn maze. Next thing she knows, she is trapped on an island where a war in under way and she is in the middle of it all. I'm not going to lie, the first like chapter or two of this book were very hard for me to read because the level of violence and abuse that were heaped on the main character Olive. I was not sure I was going to be able to read a book like that but I wanted to attempt to give the story a fair shot, so I kept plugging on. The story all of a sudden became something else, not the dark awful despair I was introduced to, but instead a mystery full of questions and discovery. For such a dark beginning, the book was able to be full of hope and end on such a high note. I think it is best to have no set expectations while going into this story, but to keep an open mind and enjoy the adventure. Olive is the narrator of the story and really the book is about her journey to discover her true worth and the importance of standing up for what is right, regardless of what others think, and the desire to "just be". Her character made such growth as a person that I could not help but want to root her on. I was also just as torn as she was about the desire to go home and her draw to stay. I loved watching her realize what she needed to become as well as see the struggles the others had as well to learn about themselves. All the side characters in the story were developed and layered, each unique individuals with different life paths and inner struggles. Bug was adorable, just a fun quirky kid, and Charlie was also an interesting character. But my favorite was Will (aka my new book crush), the strong caring leader who may not be who he wants everyone to think he is. I am trying to stay vague, but the backstory with him and Dike was a surprise to me and I liked the author's twists. This was such a surprising (in a good way) read for me and my preconceived notions were thrown on their heads. The ending was just what I could have hoped for, and the idea of what the future may hold is a mystery. This was my first book by this author and I look forward to what else she wants to write about. I received this title in return for my honest review.
The Castaways is about a group of teens from different times trapped together on an island where time doesn't move forward. Basically, it is like Neverland and they are the Peter Pans, in a Lord of the Flies situation. You see, there are TWO group of teens on the island and they are both at war with each other. Olive tumbles into this island when she is running from her bullies at the Castaway Carnival's infamous corn maze (in which children have vanished), and is rescued by one of the group - the Lions, led by Will. The others, the Panthers, are led by Duke, and some rivalry from their time has been carried over to here, making the island a warzone. The kids are of course trying to figure out a way to get back home, but they are also all sort of happy here. All of them were running from something back home, and this island is a new life and a new start for most of them. However, the island is also dangerous in the sense that they have to live off the land, and all, in the middle of the fighting. Olive, the new person at the party, wants to figure out how to resolve this years-long war between the two, that has claimed multiple lives. In doing so, she faces her own fears, and makes others realize theirs too. I would caution readers from the abuse present at the start of the book - Olive is brutally bullied by her classmates on more than one occasion, and the scenes may be triggering to some. Same for Duke's story about his days back at home. About the bullying, it may provide solace to some kids to learn that it is okay to be yourself, as the book points out. And that you can't run from your problems but have to face them. The writing is pretty good, and Olive's voice is brought out splendidly as a placid person with bouts of humor. There are some cliches, though, which kind of dampened my enjoyment of the book - like the almost insta-lovey way Will and Olive fall for each other, his regularly-piercing eyes/gaze *eyeroll*. The ending also seemed sort of easy to wrap up, but I'll take it from a standalone. Overall, an interesting book to read, for sure.
Love this book! So many interesting characters and twists/turns. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and their personal histories and will forever ponder the possible existence of portals and timeless islands.
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. Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
One thing that I thought was interesting about this story, aside from the island itself, is the story behind it. All these kids came from different decades in time and different countries, but there’s one thing they all had in common, they were running away from something. Also, the kids do not age a day while they are on the island. So while some of them should be like 60 years old, they are still stuck in their teen years. So, I thought it was interesting that you didn’t just have a group of kids who were between a certain age because technically they’ve been alive on the island for many years. One thing I was a little disappointed in was the romance. I just didn’t fully get it. It just felt like it was thrown in there because romance is expected in YA. Why couldn’t Olive’s character have grown on the island without “falling in love” with the main guy. I thought the story was great without the included romance. It would have been nice if this rag-tag team of kids banned together and became a family without there being any romantic angles. I’m sure I’m in the minority on this one but I just loved the dynamics of this group before the romance was introduced. The Castaways is a story about overcoming your fears. Each of the characters in this book had something they were running from. I liked the way the teens banned together and took care of each other, especially when it came to the younger kids who showed up on the island. While I felt like the romance was unnecessary, I still enjoyed this story. I loved the message that it told. *I was provided an arc copy for my honest opinion via the publisher*
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review Wow! I can't even express how epic this book was. I couldn't put it down and read it from cover to cover in 24 hours. The Castaways pulls you in from the moment you open the cover when you realize that the main character, Olive is being bullied at school. Through the rest of the book, all I could think about was how Olive was going to get off the island alive and would William go with her. At the end, all I wanted to do was scream at William "Go with here!." But, alas, he couldn't. At the end, I just wanted to cry, but the author made everything better. I'm not going to give it away, but it has a happy ending. Five stars for Jessika Fleck!
“Castaways” is an incredible YA fantasy that takes place on “The Island.” Think “The Lord of the Flies” or “The Maze Runner,” although this book is a masterpiece in its own right. Olive Maxi Gagmuehler has always hated her name- she believes it is at the center of why she is bullied and represents everything terrible about her life. Olive is horribly bullied by a trio of girls at her school with real violence. One of the first scenes we witness is the trio holding her down on the bathroom floor while shoving a used tampon into her mouth until she vomits. It is no wonder that Olive runs through the corn maze to escape the trio after they beat her and shave off some of her hair. What she doesn’t expect is that running through the corn maze will land her somewhere completely different from Texas- “The Island.” This is where the real story begins. Olive is found by a group of children, currently engaged in a war with another set of children. All the kids are from different places and times, although a few came through the same corn maze Olive did (albeit at very different times). On The Island, they don’t age- although death is very real. The group of kids which found Olive consist of the leader, Will, whose bully Dean leads the other group of children, the adorable and young Bug, who always sneaks into Olive’s bed at night, the young Charlie who won’t speak, Tilly, whose care keeps them all well, and Jude and Lucas. Olive and Will instantly have a connection and a sweet young love forms. Will and Dean came through the same corn maze in the 70s, a bully and his victim. Everyone on The Island was running from something when they landed there, but none of them know how to get back. They’ve been engaged in a war for so long, complete with bombs and deaths- it’s pretty intense. This is a strong, fascinating and fast-paced book that will keep you guessing. I could easily imagine this turning into an amazing series, but this book has a complete story with an ending that doesn’t leave much room for sequels (so if you like complete stand-alones, this one’s for you!). There is quite a bit of violence and some really extreme bullying in the book- it’s pretty intense. The romance was quick, but I liked it/it was believable enough! It’s definitely worth the read though- I was completely captivated by the story and could not put it down; I loved the characters, I loved The Island, and I loved the mystery of it all. This is a beautifully written book, and I really enjoyed it! Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Wow! An imaginative, thrilling book. The bullying in the beginning is soul-searing; the violence on the island shocking and riveting. Olive is transformed through friendship and love and stands up for herself and others when it matters most. Well done!
Once I started it, this book was hard to put down. Olive, in an effort to escape bullies, finds herself in a maze that takes her to a deserted island of other “castaway” teens. There’s rival groups and amazing characters (who are as interesting as Olive). The romance between Olive and Will, the leader of one group, was well developed and believable. I really enjoyed reading this book! There is definitely a Lord of the Flies element, and elements of Lost, but it really is its own thing. The writing is excellent and the pacing kept me turning the pages without frowning in confusion. I’m looking forward to reading more from this author!
Jessika Fleck's debut novel, "The Castaways," is a fast-paced, wholly original fantasy that reminded me of a YA "Lost." And I say that as a "Lost" super-fan who never missed an episode! Like the intriguing TV series, "The Castaways" follows two tribes stuck on a mysterious island, unsure how they got there and how (or if) they can ever return home. Our heroine, Olive Maxi Gagmuelher, is fleeing a trio of "Mean Girls"-style bullies when she somehow transports from a carnival corn maze to the island, where she meets a band of fellow outsiders, The Lions, including romantic interest and leader Will, and charming children Charlie and Bug. The Lions have been at war with The Panthers for some time, and when Olive joins The Lions, she's put in the middle of their deadly conflict. "The Castaways" has a message about facing your internal demons that will resonate with teen readers, and the plot will keep fantasy/action fans hooked. Fleck's Olive has a sassy, intelligent voice, and "The Castaways" mixes several elements - a little bit "Lord of the Flies," a little bit "Peter Pan," a "Carrie" moment - to create a unique read!
What a great read! Amazing imagery and character descriptions, who, by the way, are impossible to not fall in love with. I loved every character and there was such much emotion and background behind each and every one. Along with such a unique plot, this book was impossible to put down.
If LOST and the Lord of the Flies had a magical offspring then The Castaways would be it. From the first chapter you are drawn into Olive’s world where she simply wishes to escape high school and the bullies making her life hell. From the time Olive runs into a magical maze away from her tormentors and vanishes onto an Island, until the end the author addresses this in a such a raw and beautiful way that anyone can relate to. It is a mix of fantasy and relationships, and ultimately what you have to do to face your fears, including yourself. Every single characters’ backstory is beautifully thought out and why each ended up on the Island to begin with. The world building is lovely and the overall theme of the story will make this book stand as more than just fiction.
Really beautiful writing amid a cinematic story with perfect pacing. This book was a YA version of Lost, in all the best ways- a mysterious island with a "brain" of its own, characters with compelling backstories, infighting among different factions of those who landed there under mysterious circumstances- yep, I loved it!!
What a fun and thrilling read. Full of vivid island imagery and characters who will grab your heart, and a knockout concept, make this an absorbing read. Kids tested to their limits and how they resolve conflicts and how cause and effect created their present situation. They also learn about the gift of sacrifice. Good stuff. I was sure the characters were fully conscious. Jessika’s deft writing is lovely and at times poetic. I look forward to reading the author’s next work!
I received an advance copy of The Castaways and liked the premise right away. To escape the torment of bullies in high school, Olive jumps from the frying pan into the fire of a parallel world, an island where a war between two rival factions of teens is raging. The Castaways is an exciting YA contemporary fantasy with a nice romantic complication between Olive and Will, a dashing, stoical teen commander. The story could have transitioned to the island world a little sooner for me, but once there, the action-packed pacing kept the pages turning. I also liked the many secondary characters, who were well-drawn with compelling backstories for the most part. The ordeal of surviving on the island undeniably transforms Olive’s character, and the resolution is both dramatic and unexpected. An absorbing read.