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Live Together, Die Alone

Jessica Taylor's new novel explores what happens when one boy and two sisters-with-issues end up stranded on an island after a fatal boating accident.

Live Together, Die Alone

BOOK REPORT for A Map For Wrecked Girls by Jessica Taylor

Cover Story: Montell Jordan
BFF Charm: Yay and Hell Nah
Swoonworthy Scale: 7
Talky Talk: Now and Then
Bonus Factor: Deserted Islands
Anti-Bonus Factor: Toxic Sisters
Relationship Status: Sail Away With Me Beach Buddy

Cover Story: Montell Jordan

Y'all, sometimes simple is best, and this cover is B-E-S-T. I love the title treatment with the gorgeous tropical flowers, and the detail of the shoreline along the bottom. The blackness gives it an air of suspense and mystery, and hints that despite the pretty flowers, a deserted island isn't as easy breezy as a beach getaway. A+

The Deal:

While on vacation in Puerto Rico, Emma and her sister Henri take a spur-of-the-moment boat outing with a hottie named Alex and his cousin Casey. But when the boat goes up in flames, Alex, Henri and Emma find themselves stranded on a tiny island, miles away from civilization. And to make matters worse, no one knows they went out on the boat that day, so no one knows to look for them. Now, they must survive the dangers of the island: starvation, dehydration, and alligator-like caiman. That is, if they can survive each other.

BFF Charm: Yay and Hell Nah

Emma has lived her whole life in the shadow of her beautiful, magnetic and popular older sister Henri. Emma can't see any of her own good qualities - she sees herself only as a fraction of what her sister is. But on the island, when Henri becomes sedentary and withdrawn, Emma flourishes. She works hard to survive when her sister won't, she has hope for survival when no one else does. I loved watching Emma catch fish, cleverly construct shelters, and cook food. Through flashbacks, we learn more about what Emma was like before she was shipwrecked, and while pre-island Emma was a sweet girl, the bad ass, shipwrecked version of Emma is the one who gets my BFF charm.

MEANWHILE, oh dear god, there's Emma's sister Henrietta. Henri is the epitome of mean girl, and she uses her feminine wiles to manipulate everyone around her, including - and especially - Emma. It becomes clear early on that Henri has no intention of being rescued from the island, so she continually thwarts Emma and Alex's attempts to be rescued, refuses to help gather food or water, and mostly just pouts or works on her tan. She was infuriating. And while the motives for her actions become clear over the course of the story, I couldn't ever warm up to her or forgive her of her past behaviors.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

What should've been a fun, short-lived Vacation Flirtation™ between Alex and Emma turned dark SUPER fast. Emma meets Alex when he's driving his rickshaw around her resort, and after one day spent together, they head out on the boat, quickly finding themselves stranded together. It was hard to get a read on Alex at first. He was in shock - over being stranded, as well as the death of his cousin Casey, who didn't survive the crash. And on top of that, for every time Emma ventured to think Alex was cute, Henri insisted that he wasn't. But over time and their shared trauma, Alex and Emma grow closer. While I think a lot of the romance was situational (who wouldn't hook up with a cute boy when he was LITERALLY the only guy you were stranded on an island with?), Alex and Emma had a lot of chemistry, which led to a lot of steamy under-the-waterfall moments. Meow, mami!

Talky Talk: Now and Then

The chapters in A Map For Wrecked Girls alternate between the sisters' time on the island and the inciting incident from about six months before, which is the cause of their current icy attitudes toward one another. I loved the tension that this caused, knowing that something terrible was going to happen and waiting for it to unfold, all while seeing the disastrous fall out in action. The backstory gives us so much insight into why Emma and Henri are the way they are, but it also highlights how the island changes each of them. I really enjoyed this format, especially coupled with Jessica Taylor's dreamy, contemporary writing style.

Bonus Factor: Deserted Islands

Raise your hand if you loved LOST and don't even care how it ended! ::raises hand:: I really love any deserted island story. From the psychology behind how people act in that specific situation, to the industrious creativity that it forces people to tap into, stranded-on-a-deserted-island stories are always so riveting for me.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Toxic Sisters

As somone who does not have a sister, I can never relate to stories about sisters who consistently excuse or justify each other's terrible behavior. I feel like I read these a lot in YA! If your sister lies to and manipulates and emotionally abuses you, IT DOESN'T MAKE IT OKAY JUST BECAUSE SHE IS YOUR SISTER. I spent a hefty chunk of this book wishing I could thwack Emma over the head with it and tell her to stop romanticizing her abusive sister. It's like these two were forever bonded with barbed wire.

Relationship Status: Sail Away With Me Beach Buddy

Book, you were a perfect end-of-summer read, and while my first reaction is that I'd like to sail away with you, you've pretty much ruined me on boats forever. Instead, I'd take you with me for easy reading on a beach somewhere. Preferably a beach with fancy cocktails and cabanas that I could leave eventually.

FTC Full Disclosure: I did not receive money or Girl Scout cookies of any kind (not even the lame cranberry ones) for writing this review. A Map For Wrecked Girls is available now.

Rosemary Hallmark's photo About the Author: Rosemary lives in Little Rock, AR with her cute husband and even cuter dog. At 16, she plucked a copy of Sloppy Firsts off the "New Releases" shelf and hasn't stopped reading YA since. (She's still got a soft spot for the swoony, contemporary stuff.) A former magazine editor, she is now a freelance writer, graphic designer, art director and photo stylist. The rest of her time is spent drinking cocktails, renovating her house and laughing at her husband's ridiculous Pretty Little Liars theories.
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