Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins

“Give it time. Nothing you feel is wrong. There will always be a before and an after, and you have to learn to live in the after.” – Rachel Hawkins, Reckless Girls 

Rachel Hawkins is proving she’s a contender among mystery writers with her latest book, Reckless Girls. With this being only her second foray into writing adult fiction (Hawkins had previously written young adult and juvenile fiction), she has crafted a suspenseful psychological mystery that takes place on an island in the middle of nowhere.

Lux McAllister has been drifting for a while. After her mother died, Lux found herself working a job she didn’t particularly like in California. Enter Nico. The minute he walked into the restaurant she was working in, Lux felt he would change her life. Soon enough, the two are living in Hawaii. Nico promised her trips around the world in his boat. Instead the two have been stuck in Hawaii while Nico waits for the money to fix his boat. Nico’s family is rich, so he could ask his dad for the money, but his pride is holding him back. Instead he works at the marina while Lux works as housekeeping at a local resort, hoping to save enough money to fix the boat and sail away.

One day Nico tells Lux that he has met two women who want to hire him to sail them to a remote island in the South Pacific. The best news: they want Lux to come. After they pay to have Nico’s boat, the Susannah, fixed, the four head off to Meroe Island. Their passengers are college best friends Brittany and Amma. They say they want to travel off the beaten path, but something about the two seems off to Lux. After all, why would the chose Meroe Island? The island has a mysterious and deadly history: shipwrecks, cannibalism, and murder have haunted the island for years. It is a gorgeous destination though.

The group descend upon Meroe Island only to discover that there is already another boat anchored just off sandy coast. Living aboard the Azure Sky are Jake and Eliza. They are the golden couple: rich, gorgeous, laidback, and most importantly, their large catamaran has a very well-stocked bar. All six of them immediately click and begin spending their days together exploring the island off grid. Lux finally feels at peace. That peace is shattered when secrets start bubbling to the surface. It appears that people aren’t being as honest as they presented themselves to be. Meroe Island’s exotic locale becomes less and less appealing the longer they stay. When someone turns up dead and another goes missing, emotions run high as they wonder how many will actually leave Meroe alive.

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Daughter of the Deep by Rick Riordan

If you’ve ever wanted to read a classic book but can’t stand the long-winded scientific descriptions, there’s nothing like a modern retelling, preferably YA, to give it an inclusive and action-packed second life. In this case, middle-grade urban fantasy powerhouse Rick Riordan has written Daughter of the Deep as a skillful homage to Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Welcome to Harding-Pencroft School, the science and technology high school that trains some of the world’s best scientists, diplomats, code-crackers, and naval warriors. It’s divided into four “houses” or focuses of study: House Dolphin, communication and cryptology experts; House Shark, warriors and leaders; House Cephalopod, engineers and innovators, and House Orca, experts in medicine, psychology, and memory. Ana Dakkar is a freshman in House Dolphin, about to undergo her end-of-year trials to determine if she has what it takes to continue her program. Harding-Pencroft is her only home after her parents died two years ago, leaving herself and her brother Dev, a House Shark senior, orphaned. Unfortunately, her trials do not go as planned as she and the rest of the freshman class witness a tragedy that plunges them all into a race for their lives – and for a once in a lifetime treasure. It turns out that they and their rival school, Land Institute, have been in a years-long cold war over the legacy of Captain Nemo (as made famous in Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues under the Sea) who, as it turns out, may not have been so fictional after all…

Rick Riordan fans will love his signature quirky, inclusive, tight-knit friend group that makes up the main cast of characters, and Star Trek fans will love their journey into the unknown under a tightly regimented chain of command. I loved how much of an homage it was to Jules Verne’s original, while at the same time adding a more modern perspective – including greater diversity and a more thoughtful engagement with mental health, trauma, and grief. In my opinion, Rick Riordan does a good job balancing exciting action and character development with a deeper message about the importance of science and oceanography.

If you like exciting adventures, undersea exploration, and compelling characters, or you still love Percy Jackson, you won’t want to miss this book.