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Girl Island

The award-winning, edge of your seat debut novel by Kate Castle

Girl Island. Dark Horse, 2021.

Ever wished you could leave everything behind and move to a tropical island in the middle of a distant ocean? What you are about to read may make you change your mind.

When Ellery Holmes left her family farm behind in the pursuit of a better future, little did she know her life would change forever.

Defined as “a cross between Lord of the Flies and Mean Girls”, Girl Island tells the story of 17 years old Ellery who, following the death of her father, is awarded a scholarship to a renowned private school thanks to her impressive achievements in the heptathlon. Before she knows it, she is on her way to the Maldives to attend a sports camp. Travelling with her, a diverse group of seven teenagers she’s never met before, except for her ex best friend, who she’s tied to by a painful past. 

While travelling, the group is forced to make a crash landing into the ocean and end up on a small, uninhabited island in the middle of nowhere. The two boys in the pack soon depart to explore a nearby island in the hope to get help, leaving six girls and their seriously ill teacher to fight for survival. Already rocky relationships quickly turn sour as food and water are hard to come by, and fire becomes the most precious resource to survive.

As a consequence, two factions form, and a nasty, deadly battle commences. Who will be victorious? And most importantly: will the group ever be able to leave the island?

Girl Island is a real page turner. Castle shows a great ability to describe the island itself and the numerous challenges of life in the wild, by creating a vivid and compelling narration that makes you think you are on those sandy beaches, watching the story as it unfolds. 

As unrealistic as circumstances and setting may seem – the initial chapters of the book may in fact cause you to raise an eyebrow – Kate Castle gradually draws you in more and more, turning what could be initially thought of as a “battle royale for survival” novel into a coming of age one. 

Ellery Holmes is, in fact, an impressive, memorable main character, a strong-minded girl that despite her young age and the challenges life has already thrown at her, manages to stay true to herself, overcome the initial insecurity and self-doubt typical of a teenager and puts up a relentless fight to lead and protect her pack. There are losses along the way, of course, but this experience will make her even stronger and end up changing her life forever, as she discovers who she really is. 

Whilst some elements of the narration seem a bit far-fetched – such as two teenagers successfully landing a crashing plane and ensuring everyone survives – they all make sense in the economy of the story. Far-fetched and unrealistic don’t matter as much after all: the struggle is real. Take the eight teenagers off the island and throw them into a real-life setting, a school for example. They would be facing the same insecurities, preconceptions and even peer cruelty and bullying (unless they are on the right side of the fence, i.e. “popular”).

Girl Island is available to purchase at: https://tinyurl.com/22wpdw6w

While I don’t think Castle intentionally set out to criticise a social system that sometimes puts too much pressure on young people to fit in and be liked, Girl Island takes you back to when you were younger and makes you think about all those times you just wished to be like anybody else. Except you were not. This is the power of Castle’s storytelling.

About Kate Castle

Kate Castle is the author of the Amazon.com bestselling novella ‘Born of the Sea’ (available on Amazon). Her debut novel Girl Island – a contemporary YA adventure – was published in December 2021 and has won two awards at this year’s Goldie Awards (Best Debut Novel & Best Young Adult Fiction).

Kate’s books fall into the Young Adult and New Adult adventure and romance categories. Kate is passionate about representing young queer females in literature and writes about fierce, independent young women – the kind of characters she wished she could have read more about growing up (source: amazon.co.uk).


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