Reviewed by Maggie: July 12, 2012
Published: July 10, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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Whenever I hear a news story or watch a movie about people who end up in bad situations after ignoring the advice of locals, my reaction is something like this:
I don't think they deserve to DIE, but since a ton of resources are going to be spent on their rescue due to their arrogance, they can deal with a little Running Man.
In the beginning of Lost Girls, a group of Amelia Earhart Cadets ranging in age from 9-14 find themselves blown off course while heading to an island for a camping trip. Their chaperone, a glamorous Scottish woman in her 20s named Layla Campbell, has the boatman drop them off on another island despite his protestations and refusal to step foot on the island. Layla Campbell, nicknamed the Duchess by the adoring girls, dismisses the boatman's warnings and has the girls start setting up their campsite. Get ready to do the Running Man.
The first day is picture perfect and the girls go to sleep thinking they're in paradise. Their idyll ends the first night when they're awoken by a storm that rips apart their campsite. One girl is fatally injured. They have two more days left before the boatman is scheduled to pick them up. The two days pass, but no one comes. Not only that, they see an explosion in the distance. Was the mainland attacked? Are their families in trouble, thus explaining why no one has come for them? Are people looking for them?
I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected. The story is told from 14-year-old Bonnie's point of view through her journal entries. This reminded me of Ellie in Tomorrow, When the War Began, one of my favorite series. The situation also called to mind another favorite book, Lord of the Flies. Bonnie addresses this similarity, but says girls wouldn't act that way. I love this because I remember thinking the same thing while reading Lord of the Flies. There is one obvious biological difference between boys and girls that is addressed -- oh, the joys of menstruation -- but a lack of testosterone doesn't stop girls from behaving badly either.
I really liked Bonnie. She's the responsible, bossy one who isn't popular with the girls who wear makeup, and she's prone to make judgements about people, but I found her to be relatable. She goes from being glad her mother didn't come so she can spend time with a "cool" adult like the Duchess, to wishing more than anything that her mother was there. She brought along her mother's copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and as the Duchess keeps failing her, Bonnie turns to that book as a survival guide.
I love books like Tomorrow and Lost Girls because I always wonder what I'd do in extreme survival situations (I'd die), and I take notes on all the things I should learn to do just in case. Pro tip #1: Learn to make a fire without matches. (Actually, tip #1 is always: If a local starts yelling and flailing when you say you're going somewhere, DON'T GO THERE.) The author doesn't skimp on details of the smell, the bugs, and the filth, and I hope to God to never encounter a chigger as long as I live.
Lost Girls is set in 1974 during the Vietnam War, but aside from references to the Duchess's petticoat and a lack of references to cell phones, this story could be set in the present. There are a few references to the war and whether it's right or wrong through Bonnie's flashbacks to fights with her soldier father, but substitute Iraq for Vietnam and this is a modern discussion. This book isn't middle grade, but it does skew toward the younger end of the YA spectrum. I would've loved reading this book in 8th grade. Despite being far beyond 8th grade, I still really enjoyed this book.
Rating: 4/5 stars.