Have you ever gotten in a fight with someone while you were in a car together, and then you had to just sit there with them…trapped…unable to go anywhere else and forced to either work through your issues or tear each other’s heads off?
This book is basically that feeling, multiplied by about a thousand. It’s that, except with the addition of having to figure out where you’re going to get the basic necessities to stay alive, and with the addition of a third person who you’re not sure if you can trust but you also might be falling for.
Sounds like a lot, right? Well, you’re right. It is. But Jessica Taylor handles it masterfully in this novel, A Map for Wrecked Girls.
A Map for Wrecked Girls is a contemporary YA novel which was released on August 15th of this year. I initially discovered this book when I was browsing Goodreads and checking out what new books were being released in August. I stumbled across this title, checked out the description, and immediately popped it onto my TBR list. It resurfaced on my radar again when Penguin Teen began promoting it in a few different ways, including a tag called The Book Lover Survival Tag, which I took part in and which was actually pretty difficult (choosing which books to take with you on a deserted island? And ALL OF THEM isn’t an option? But I digress…). By the time this book was released, I was pretty sufficiently hyped for it.
In A Map for Wrecked Girls, sisters Emma and Henri are involved in a horrific (and mysterious) boating accident which kills one of the four people on board and leaves the sisters and one other passenger, a young man named Alex, washed up on an island in the middle of the ocean where the only other living creatures are potentially-disease-carrying bugs and caimans, which I never realized were so terrifying until reading this book.
Now Emma, Henri, and Alex must figure out how to survive on this island where they’re stranded with no water, no food, and only the clothes on their backs and Alex’s mysterious backpack which he seems to be strangely overprotective of.
While it seems like that would be the focal point of the book, at the true heart of this story is Emma and Henri’s relationship. Growing up, Emma always lived for Henri; Henri was the biggest star in her galaxy, the focal point of their relationship. Emma was the backup dancer to Henri’s Britney, and Henri—despite all her flaws—could do no wrong, based simply on the sisters’ love for each other. And they assumed it would always be that way. But in the months leading up to their tragic shipwreck, things fell apart before Emma and Henri, and now “tense” doesn’t even begin to describe their relationship.
The book alternates between chapters taking place in the present, while Emma, Henri, and Alex work through their issues with each other and their survival, and chapters in the past, where we explore exactly how Emma and Henri’s relationship fell apart.
There are quite a few things that make this book so good, but perhaps the most significant is the characters and the relationships between them. As anyone who has read any of my reviews before likely knows, for me, characters the most important aspect of any book, and Taylor did an excellent job with the characters in A Map for Wrecked Girls. Emma, Henri, and Alex were all fleshed out, complex, and believable characters. Each of them had good points but also had their fair share of flaws. No one was written as overly perfect or as the clear “good guy” or “bad guy”, and while it would have been easy to let some of the characters fall into unfortunate tropes (Henri as the “perfect, popular girl”, Alex as the “hot bad boy”), none of the characters ended up as stereotypes or tropes. They were very real and genuine to me, which made it easy to emotionally connect with them even if I couldn’t relate to their exact situation (you may be shocked to learn I’ve never actually been shipwrecked on an island, nor do I have a sister).
Because the characters were all dynamic and very human, it was easy to believe the relationships in this book, as well. Like the characters, they were far from perfect, and instead echoed honest, real-life relationships in all their intricacy. Taylor did such an excellent job of writing a raw and authentic relationship between Emma and Henri, I found myself flip-flopping back and forth between wishing I had a sister and being so thankful I didn’t have a sister—and then wishing I had a sister again.
Additionally, Emma’s burgeoning relationship with Alex, the only human male on the island, felt like a real relationship between two young adults. It developed gradually and truthfully, rather than the “hey-we’re-trapped-on-an-island-together-so-why-not” insta-love that a lesser author might have fallen victim to. At turns, I wanted to shake Emma and Alex and scream at them to go for it already, and then wanted to shake Emma and warn her not to trust Alex because what is that guy up to?! I felt like I was going along on the tumultuous relationship ride with Emma.
The other thing that really helped maintain the suspense of the story was the structure. I loved that we moved back and forth between the present and the past, unfolding the events that transpired between the sisters little by little, like a middle-school paper fortune teller slowly revealing the future.
Just when I would start to get some much-craved information about the past, we would move back to the present, keeping me on my toes and ready to find out more about the past events. But the best part was, the events happening in the present were always super interesting, too. Between trying to figure out if we could trust Alex, trying to figure out if we could trust Henri, and trying to figure out how these three were going to stay alive on the island, the suspense levels were high.
And speaking of staying alive on the island, the survival aspect of A Map for Wrecked Girls was another major reason to love it. I’m always pretty interested in survival type stuff (perhaps one of the reasons I find post-apocalyptic literature so interesting) (and maybe also have a bit of a soft spot for doomsday preppers) (don’t judge me), so I was dying to see how the three young adults would manage to take care of themselves on the island, and was super interested in following the choices they made to ensure their survival, from their dangerous quest for clean water, to figuring out what they could eat, to the challenge of building a shelter—and surviving those terrifying caimans who are like, who are these three strangers who just showed up on my island?!
Overall, it was a very adrenaline-packed journey. It’s especially interesting to see young adults in situations like this, because not only have they never been out on their own taking care of themselves in the regular world, but now the first time they’re on their own, they are truly and completely on their own, in some of the most dangerous terrain imaginable. (On the plus side, if they make it out of this, regular adult life should be a cake walk…right?)
So, do they make it off the island? Do they figure out a way to stay alive? Can Alex and Henri be trusted? Do Emma and Henri repair their relationship?
Sorry, you’ll have to read it to find out! I really don’t want to spoil it all for you, because it’s truly a rewarding and intriguing read to experience for yourself. It’s emotional, raw, and has some really beautiful moments, along with the suspense and the survival aspects. I would definitely recommend giving this one a read, especially if you love well-written YA, out of the ordinary scenarios, and stories about sisters. Star-wise, I’d give this book five out of five!
Has anyone else read A Map for Wrecked Girls? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments! You know I’d love to talk. <3