Author: Emily Bleeker
Pages: 305 (paperback)
Selected By: Elle Tea
“Lillian Linden is a liar. On the surface, she looks like a brave survivor of a plane crash. But she’s been lying to her family, her friends, and the whole world since rescue helicopters scooped her and her fellow survivor, Dave Hall, off a deserted island in the South Pacific. Missing for almost two years, the castaways are thrust into the spotlight after their rescue, becoming media darlings overnight. But they can’t tell the real story – so they lie.
“The public is fascinated by the castaways’ saga, but Lillian and Dave must return to their lives and their spouses. Genevieve Randall – a hard-nosed journalist and host of a news program – isn’t buying it. She suspects Lillian’s and Dave’s explanations about the other crash survivors aren’t true. And now, Genevieve’s determined to get the real story, no matter how many lives it destroys.
“In this intriguing tale of survival, secrets, and redemption, two everyday people thrown together by tragedy must finally face the truth… even if it tears them apart.” – from the Amazon summary.
This was a really interesting debut novel that I stumbled upon thanks to Amazon’s Kindle-First program (so, hey, yeah, it was free for Prime members, too – squee!).
The first thing I have to say is that this is a fairly original take on the whole “survivor” tale; rather than following a linear tale of two heroes, we begin with Lillian and Dave in the distant wake of their rescue, and we move back-and-forth through time as they tell their obviously questionable stories to a journalist for what they hope is the final time. The pacing is quite good; in fact, this is another novel that I’d mostly devoured by the end of Day One (I was at 65% by the time I called it a night).
One thing I really enjoyed was the portrayal of the peripheral characters, such as Genevieve Randall and the parents of one of the victims of the crash, and they way they mercilessly judged the method(s) of survival utilized by the survivors, especially considering that the very people most vehemently opposed to the tactics and antics of our survivors (a) weren’t there, and (b) had no foundation in their own lives with which to compare how they themselves might have responded in a similar situation. It’s human – we all have opinions, and this leads us to make judgments, sometimes prematurely – but Bleeker does an excellent job of reminding her readers that this sort of judgment is unforgiving and thoroughly unfair. I mean, personally I’d like to think I’m the sort of person who would throw themselves in the ocean after the volleyball that had been my sole companion on a deserted island for four years rather than simply letting it float away… but I don’t know if I am that sort of person or not, since I’ve never been on a deserted island with a volleyball.
Along the same lines, I also believe the way Bleeker portrayed the media’s (and indirectly, the public’s) handling of the survivors was quite realistic. Not necessarily kind, by any means, but certainly realistic. When the survivors first returned home, they were, as proclaimed in the book, “media-darlings;” as the story became “old news,” however, they began to lose their “darling” status and almost fell into obscurity before being dug back up with the hopes of unearthing a scandal. Audiences are fickle, and we need good guys and bad guys for everything – even our news. First you’re a hero, then you’re an enemy – the media doesn’t care which role you play, whose lives are destroyed in the process, so long as people tune in and their ratings soar.
In the end, I was surprised to find that I most related to Dave – especially since his initial impression left me entirely unimpressed. He comes across as weak and more than a little wishy-washy in the beginning, but it soon becomes evident that he is fully aware of and owns to all of his weaknesses, which I believe made him the strongest character of them all. He’s no more noble that Lillian, in the end, but I could at least understand his thought process: his last touch of civilization before being dumped into the ocean was disappointing, to say the least, and left him rocked for quite some time. He accepts that he cannot compete with uber-alpha Kent for leadership of their tribe, but, despite his own admittance of his submissive position, he eventually challenges that leadership when it becomes evident that someone will have to act – and soon. I found him to be the only thoroughly genuine character in the entire novel, as well; his acts of duplicity are committed and maintained by demand – a demand made from someone with a larger claim to the truth and the announcement of it than even he has.
The families of the survivors – specifically Jerry and Beth – are never wholly fleshed out, which is perfectly fine; they’re not the focus of this story, and their additions simply highlight the collateral damage caused by such upheaval. We see the struggle of the survivors but only hear of those of the families they left behind; after grief, Jerry and Beth eventually come to personify the two biggest emotions felt by those left behind to pick up the pieces: acceptance and denial.
Now for the hard part…
I really… really… really didn’t like Lillian. I mean… really. She had a few bursts of emotional and mental strength immediately following the impact, but she fell apart not long after that, and she continued to fall apart until there was nothing left for me to respect or even like about her. She made one poor decision after another, from withholding vital information about their tribe’s dynamic that may have greatly influenced one of the members of their group to just winging something that eventually results in a medical nightmare. When she finds that she is most threatened when traveling alone around the island, her answer is to tell no one and, instead, continue traveling alone around the island. She contributes very little; oh, sure, she does their laundry once a week, but in the two years they are on this island, she doesn’t seem to learn much about fishing, hunting, or tracking, whereas Dave and Kent – who knew no more about these skills than she when they first washed up on those shores – obviously took a moment to figure out how they were going to eat, drink, and provide shelter for the group.
Also, I had a bit of a hard time really wrapping my mind around acceptance of that ending. It was very “… and they all lived happily ever after,” which didn’t quite jive with the rest of the book. It was like everyone got together and smooshed themselves into one big Care Bear hug; it made me ask what the hell purpose their anxiety throughout the novel had served, since it all proved entirely unnecessary by the end.
Overall, I’d say it’s quite a good read, especially if you like shows such as I Survived… It is the author’s first published work, and it’s a great way to start what I hope is a promising career as a professional writer! Plus, hey, if you have Amazon, this is the perfect time to snag it – but it’s well-worth the price.
Elle read the Kindle-First version of this book.