A group of female campers are marooned on a wilderness island off the coast of Thailand during the Vietnam War.
With a sly nod to Lord of the Flies, author Kelley drops Bonnie MacDonald, the 14-year-old daughter of an American serviceman, on a (not quite uninhabited) tropical island. Initially, Bonnie is thrilled. Not only is she there on a three-day camping trip with her fellow Amelia Earhart Cadets, the adventure is being led by her idol, the glamorous Layla Campbell. But almost immediately things begin to sour. The boat goes off course and the girls end up on the taboo Koh Tabu, which Bonnie’s friend Jas translates as forbidden island. On their first night a storm hits, killing one of the younger girls and injuring another. The gruesome discovery of their boatman’s body, and along with it the realization that nobody knows where they are, further amplifies the tension. What stands out is the anger and betrayal that Kelley’s willful, survival-focused protagonist feels toward the weak, irresponsible Layla, as well as Bonnie’s later condemnation of her own behavior, both of which can be seen as morally ambiguous and subject to multiple truths.
Although the material could use some judicious cutting, it’s strong and provocative, offering readers a forum to discuss friendship, blame, forgiveness and situational morality. (Historical fiction/adventure. 12 & up)