"Levez’s debut captures the emotional journey of 16-year-old Frances Stanton, one of a plane full of British juvenile delinquents and camp staffers headed to a skills-based intervention on an Indonesian island. When the plane crashes, Frances reaches a deserted island with few supplies, where she struggles to find food, water, and shelter among sharks and poisonous plants. With a dog as her only companion, Frances faces painful memories of her family back home, including her ill mother, her half-brother, and her mother’s lecherous boyfriend. Through short chapters, Levez effortlessly balances Frances’s past, present, and imagined future, including vivid flashbacks of her home life and acts of retaliation against a well-meaning teacher.... Echoing O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins , Levez’s story will keep readers riveted as determined, hard-edged Frances fights to survive."
STARRED Review, Publishers Weekly
“A teen struggles against both nature and her own past experiences in a reflective survival tale.... Not all readers will embrace this novel's haunting, open-ended conclusion, but those who do will find much to appreciate and discuss."
“This is one book that should be on everyone’s radar. Fast-paced and incredibly written, readers will be captivated by Fran and her desire to just survive.”
YA Books Central
"With a huge debt to Robinson Crusoe and the film Cast Away , this ambitious story stars troubled teenager Frances, whose nurturing love for her younger brother drives her to imagine escaping their abusive, dysfunctional home."
The Daily Mail
"The survival novel has a long history from Defoe to Morpurgo and Martel. Here, Olivia Levez in her debut takes familiar ingredients but through the medium of her feisty, contemporary main protagonist gives them fresh vigour. Fran is a very recognisable teenager; rebellious, intractable, unlikeable - but a survivor; she is a girl determined to beat life at its own terms whether in the city or on a deserted tropical island. And this island is as much of a character as Fran, a beguiling paradise - and a hostile battleground. Levez does not make the mistake of providing Fran with everything she needs; survival is a harsh battle. However, the reader is in no doubt that Fran can be her own worst enemy, but it is also clear that determination and imagination are all important. This would not be a teen novel without romance. And here it comes in the form of the gorgeous Rufus. Then Levez adds a twist that is both unexpected, contemporary and satisfying.
"This right-of-passage story has a vigour that will grip the reader from the first page and carries on to the last. Told by Fran as she faces present dangers while remembering the circumstances leading this point, the narrative has a powerful immediacy. It will not be easy to forget Fran, and Olivia Levez is a talent to watch."
Books for Keeps: The Children's Book Magazine Online
"Readers will root for the characters' survival.... A page-turner."
School Library Journal
"Written in short chapters with flashbacks describing how Frances turned into a 'monster,' readers will dislike Frances at first but grow to love her as she discovers who she is and learns from her mistakes. If she makes it home, she’ll be forever changed for the better. Recommend this one to teens who enjoy survival stories."
Gr 8 Up—Frances Stanton's social worker persuades her to go to an overseas team-building program for teens who have committed crimes or face juvenile detention. Stormy weather downs her plane in the Indian Ocean, but Frannie manages to grab onto an inflatable raft equipped with a small emergency kit. Parched by the sun, the British teen eventually washes up on an island but is her own worst enemy as she downs a flask of vodka and lights most of the matches in the emergency kit. Flashbacks reveal a near-homeless existence and a little brother, Johnny, who is totally neglected by their alcoholic mother and her enabling boyfriend. A tenuous relationship with one teacher (whom she thought she could trust with her secrets) falls apart, and Frannie's anger results in a horrible act of retaliation. Somehow her personal demons deliver the grit needed for island survival, and when Virgil, a dog from the ill-fated flight, appears out of nowhere, it signals the presence of another human on the island. Virgil leads Frannie to Rufus, a fair-haired do-gooder with great survival skills, but it is an instant clash of personalities, and the acrimony intensifies before it ebbs. Island habitat details are descriptive and realistic and add depth to the tension-filled plot. A crisis cements Frannie's redemption and metamorphosis from monster to savior, and while readers will root for the characters' survival, the novel ends ambiguously. VERDICT A page-turner for teens, who will be chattering about the open ending and clamoring for more to this story.—Vicki Reutter, State University of New York at Cortland
A teen struggles against both nature and her own past experiences in a reflective survival tale.Sixteen-year-old Frances Stanton considers herself a monster. She likens herself to the gorgon Medusa, longs to be as emotionless as a rock, and drops dark hints about the crime that landed her on an airplane bound for a rehabilitative adventure experience. When that plane crashes into the Indian Ocean en route to Indonesia, Frances climbs aboard a life raft, floating to a small island. Levez keeps the stakes agonizingly high as Fran fights for her life, making incremental gains, trying to prevent catastrophic losses, and slowly forging a deep bond with another castaway, Rufus. (Both characters seem to be white.) Events on the island alternate with Fran's memories of what led up to her current situation: she set fire to a wing of her London school, seriously (though accidentally) injuring a young teacher who, intending to help, was responsible for the removal into protective custody of Fran's biracial younger brother, Johnny. Fran is intensely protective of Johnny against both their mother, Cassie—a rather pathetic figure dependent on pot and alcohol—and Cassie's predatory boyfriend and quasi-pimp. Readers will quickly see that conditions on the island are more physically dangerous than in Fran's squalid apartment—but much less emotionally treacherous. Not all readers will embrace this novel's haunting, open-ended conclusion, but those who do will find much to appreciate and discuss. (Adventure. 13-16)