No parents. No rules. No way home.Fourteen-year-old Bonnie MacDonald couldn't be more excited for a camping trip on an island off the coast of Thailand with her fellow Amelia Earhart Cadets-the daughters of the men and women stationed there during the Vietnam War. But when a strong current deposits the girls on what their boatman calls the "forbidden island," things take a turn for the worse: A powerful storm comes to destroy their campsite, the smallest of the junior cadets is found dead, and their boatman never returns. What once seemed like a vacation in paradise has become a battle against the elements.
Peppered with short, frantic entries from Bonnie's journal, Lost Girls is a page-turning, heart-pounding adventure story about a group of teen girls fighting for their lives.
Plain and simple, I honestly loved Lost Girls.
Starting out, main character Bonnie seemed no different than your average fourteen year old. She was naive, basically easy going, and with a strong case of hero worship for their beautiful cadet leader, Layla Campbell.
However, through the harrowing experiences Bonnie and the others undergo while struggling to survive, the reader is treated to the incredible metamorphosis of a child into an adult. We are also privy to the deep pain, and confused anger, of a young girl learning first hand that heroes are best worshipped from a distance.
Before reading Lost Girls, my expectations hovered somewhere between Beauty Queens and Lord of the Flies. But Lost Girls is entirely its own magic. Realistic, tragic and heart warming by turns, this is a story not about a ship wreck, but about what it means to be human.
There are so many subtle lessons beneath the surface of the book: the strength of nature and the fragility of the flesh, the power of the spirit, and the gift of forgiveness through understanding. Equally an object lesson, was the backdrop of the Vietnam War. I was just two years older than Bonnie in 1974, and I remember the confusion of an issue that had the country so divided. I wasn't old enough to fully understand, but I wasn't young enough not to be affected.
As Bonnie, too, learns, very little in life is black or white. Storms overtake us all - from nature to nations. We must navigate these periods of turmoil and search for peace within our heart. Throughout Lost Girls, the author incorporated brief passages from Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which served to poignantly underscore Bonnie's emotional maturation.
And the ending - it touched me deeply. Maybe I'm too sappy these days, but there was something beautiful in the simple way Ann Kelley wrapped up her story. No loose ends, no sequel, no cliff hanger. Nada. Just that little rainbow feeling of somehow being richer for having read it.
Obviously, not everyone will agree with my assessment. But Lost Girls made me feel good and that's worth a lot some days - 5 stars in my book.