Lost Girls by Ann Kelley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Did you like Libba Bray's Beauty Queens? I confess, the satire was a little too heavy for me, so it only rated a 3. This book? Solid 5 for me.
Apparently this is based on a true event in Thailand in the '70s: several girls on a camping trip get stranded on a deserted island in the Thai archipelago and have to survive for quite a long time before they get rescued. Sounds like Lord of the Flies, too, doesn't it? In this version (called Koh Tabu in England, where it won the Manchester Book Award in 2011), it's group of girls whose fathers are involved with the Vietnamese War effort. This cadet group (sort of Girl Scout-esque) is minus their longstanding leader, although they're thrilled that Layla Campbell, a very glamorous younger woman, will be there with them. At the last moment, Bonnie's mother withdraws as well.
A storm makes it impossible for them to land on the island they'd planned to spend three days camping on, and the boatman somehow gets them to semi-safety on another island (which he calls Koh Tabu) that has abundant fresh water. The storm worsens and in the morning they realize that one of the girls died. Then the boatman, whom they'd assumed was going to return in three days, turns up dead.
Of course there are moments of courage as well as moments of hideously selfish behavior. The island has secrets, some of which the girls find and some that are hinted at. Layla's glamor wears off quickly for most of the girls, and her leadership abilities are completely lacking. Their survival, and rescue, seems bleak.
While much of this seems like a re-tread of Golding, it's more than merely that. The girls reactions to their situations all feel completely real, and there were moments when I knew/hoped I'd have acted in a similar fashion.
ARC provided by publisher.