Happy Monday, guys!
I actually debated whether I should review this book or not. Jessica is an acquaintance, and I always feel awkward if I'm about to dislike a book, when I really like the person.
So I want it to be clear that I appreciate the person, but highly disliked this book for its questionable storylines.
Read on for more.
Expected publication: August 15th 2017 by Dial Books
Goodness literally radiates her, and I've loved watching her grow in leaps and bounds with her every success. I want that to be stated, because I seriously, seriously disliked her latest book. But I don't want want my absolute disdain for A Map for Wrecked Girls, to be conflated with my love and appreciation for her, as a person.
A Map for Wrecked Girls is one of those books where you read it, because it's like watching a car wreck where you can't look away. Emma and Henri are sisters based out of San Francisco, and the book opens with them being shipwrecked on an island with a young man named Alex. The book then jumps back and forth between the past and the present, as we try and figure out how they ended up on the island on the first place, and also watch their struggle to survive.
Taylor does an exceptional job of detailing out the struggles that the sisters and Alex experience on the island. They are not equipped for the rough environment, and Taylor solidly shows how the threesome use whatever resources they have on hand, to figure out how to survive as they wait for rescue. Unfortunately, some of the impact of this is ruined by the absolute ridiculousness involved with the Emma/Henri dynamic.
From early chapters on, Taylor hints as a rift between the two sisters, and slowly walks us through what leads up to that rift. Unfortunately, what unfolds is a long-winded saga that makes Henri seem like a genuinely awful and unrepentant individual, and Emma an absolute doormat.
Taylor informs us that Henri has emotional problems, which manifests itself into promiscuous behavior. She sleeps with a lot of guys and flirts with even more.
While there is a part of Emma that is jealous of the attention paid to Henri, she's also torn when Henri begins an affair with a teacher and also starts a relationship with Emma's crush/next door neighbor, Jesse. Emma spends a lot of time obsessing over Henri's behavior, including watching her sister and Jesse interact, trying to imagine herself in Henri's place, and what have you.
It eventually culminates with Emma ratting Henri out about the teacher affair, partially out of a desire to save Jessie from what she believes to be her sister's scheming evil, ways. Not surprisingly, there's fall out that carries over to the island.
There are so many ways that this plot line could have been better handled. The idea of a girl seeking inappropriate affection due to psychological reasons is a powerful one, and there is also an argument to be made that Henri's behavior wouldn't have raised so many initial alarm bells, if she had been male.
But the way that Taylor writes it, Henri and Emma's journey has little to no depth. We're told that both sisters behave in certain ways, because of their familial circumstances. We told how awful and uncaring Henry and Emma's dad is, particularly when we're informed that he can't even be bothered to show up at the hospital, when his ex-wife is feeling ill. But we don't see just what drives Henri to go from point A to point B. By the time we meet her, she's at point C, and is pulling Emma along for the ride.
Taylor also does Emma a profound disservice, by having multiple people offer recriminations for how she has chosen to handle the decision to bring Henri/the teacher's attention to the proper authorities. Emma spends an incredible amount of time feeling consume with guilt about the situation - which is absolutely normal - but then is also told by multiple characters that yes, she should feel guilty. It's a ridiculous answer to her decision to report what is a sex and predatory crime, full stop. It actually sets a terrible precedent for all of the characters, and also a poor lesson for readers.
It's also implied by multiple characters that Henri is the troubled one who lured the teacher into a relationship, which is also maddeningly questionable. While the luring may be technically true, Taylor overlooks the opportunity to point out that still - the teacher is the adult in the relationship, and he is the one with the power and authority to say no. There's no exploration or even acknowledgement of the uneven power dynamic between Henri and the teacher, and the focus is solely on Henri's foibles.
Even on the island, Henri still isn't redeemed. We are told that she and Emma have reconciled, but her earlier actions, coupled with some of the genuinely awful diva-esque behavior that she pulls on the island, doesn't remotely go anywhere toward making it all better. In the end, I couldn't help but think that Henri should have just remained on the island, like she wanted.
Bottom line: I see this book as a missed opportunity, with some genuinely questionable storylines of blaming and shaming, and filled to the brim of first world/white girl problems. Can't recommend, and would advise readers to stay away.