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In this kickoff to a new YA series, Sam Clemens is sent to a boarding school on a remote jungle island in Malaysia, where she deals with new relationships and dangers.

Almost 17, orphan Sam Clemens is leaving Torundi for the first time, at the insistence of Dr. Jean, head of the pharmaceutical research team that helped raise her on the island. He is alarmed that she spotted a mysterious man while escaping from a leopard deep in Torundi’s rain forest, so he is sending her off to an international American boarding school in Penang, Malaysia. Upon arrival, Sam contends with a variety of teen embarrassments, including explaining her unusual name and odd wardrobe. She begins to make friends with her female roommates, and even gets involved in the students’ co-ed socializing. Then she makes an astounding discovery: Gabe Jones, the handsome, only slightly older lab assistant for one of her classes, is her Torundi jungle stranger. He denies it at first, but her persistence and their mutual attraction soon leads to him confessing that he’s working for UnMonde, the company funding Dr. Jean’s research. By novel’s end, Gabe and Sam get back to Torundi but must stay on the run from UnMonde as well as the island’s power-mad sultan, with the latter having a surprising, particular interest in Sam. McCreedy, who penned a previous girl-power tale called Liberty Frye and the Witches of Hessen (2014), puts plenty of promising ingredients into this sophomore effort. Sheena-like Sam offers amusing outsider perspective, as when she notes, after two months into boarding school: “I’ve been a good Darwinian. I’ve adapted and survived.” Her growing relationship with Gabe is also quite enjoyable, with intense interludes that will be pleasing and familiar to Twilight fans. Unfortunately, what’s really going on in Torundi is less effectively executed, with the book’s Bourne Identity/Indiana Jones–type action unfurling at rather dizzying—and often confusing—speed. Still, McCreedy concludes her narrative with a nice twist, setting up a sequel that will hopefully explain more.

Fun female teen fantasy with blurry adventures but fine romance.

Pub Date: Nov. 28th, 2014
Page count: 217pp
Publisher: Penelope Pipp Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
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