Edited by Editor Cassandra editorcassandra.com
When sixteen-year-old Jessica is marooned on a deserted island, she must put aside drama with her best friend and wooing her crush in order to survive hunger, disease, and a tyrant.
On the way to marine biology camp in Hawaii, Jessica and her classmates crash land on a deserted island. High-achieving Jessica, whose idea of a workout is picking up her Calculus book, finds herself failing in every physical task she undertakes. Beyond the island’s physical demands, Jessica is consumed with repairing her relationship with her ex-best friend and wooing the Aussie guy whose accent is as cute as he looks.
With time and hard work, Jessica manages to win over the guy, mend her friendship, and redeem her failures, but life on the island gets remarkably worse as the island’s self-appointed megalomaniac leader sits idly by while people die from disease and suffer from hunger. Jessica leads the charge in overthrowing the tyrant with the hope of getting the survivors home. But when her new boyfriend sides with the dictator, Jessica must choose between love and the good of the island.
PARADISOLA FOUND is a standalone YA survival novel complete at 60,000 words with series potential.
I am an active SCBWI member and was the Audience Choice winner for NYC Midnight’s 2011 Tweet Me a Story contest. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
First Five Pages:
The early morning sun sparkled on the sapphire water thousands of feet below. The whine of the engines drowned out the snores and conversations that surrounded me. I pushed my crappy morning, in which my brother bossed me around, my best friend ditched me for her boyfriend, and I tripped on my suitcase when this cute guy smiled at me, out of mind. I hoped the worst was behind me. I focused on a fun week ahead in Hawaii at marine biology camp — and then the plane jolted.
I thought it was turbulence. Really bad turbulence. But no, we were falling.
The cabin went dark. The engines went silent. The snores ceased, replaced by gasps and shrieks. The woman next to me grabbed my hand. “The plane’s going to crash. We’re going to die.”
No, no, no, no. I’m only sixteen. I can’t die. I didn’t get to do anything I wanted. Dreams of Stanford, working at Google, traveling the world with my incredibly hot husband — all gone before I even had a chance. I hadn’t even gotten my first kiss.
I was going to die surrounded by strangers. And yet my classmates, including my big brother, Ryan, and best friend, Emma, were only rows away. Might as well have been miles away.
I wanted to puke. The plane’s vibrations shook my whole body. The tray table in front of me rattled. Something splashed on me. Alcohol? A boy across the aisle vomited. He whimpered. More vomit splashed out. The air stunk of bile and body odor. I breathed through my mouth to avoid the noxious smells. I waited for the oxygen masks, but they didn’t drop.
The sound of the air conditioning blowing was gone. There were no voices over the intercom. But the passengers made up for the plane’s silence. People were shouting and crying. A flight attendant clung to some guy’s seat. “Help, oh God, I’m slipping,” she said. The guy in the seat grabbed her wrists right before she went sliding down the aisle. Her head thunked against the ground when she fell.
Through the din, one voice rose above the rest as it called out, “Jessica!”
I twisted around. My brother, several rows back, gave a weak smile when he saw my face.
Around him were my teachers and classmates, including a bawling Emma. How I wished to hold Ryan’s hand or to cry with Emma. I felt so alone.
I mouthed to my brother, “I love you.” Even though he normally never would say he loved me in front of non-family members, it looked like he mouthed back, “I love you, too.”
From the back of the plane, flight attendants shouted orders. "Heads down, grab ankles, stay down." They repeated this over and over and over. I bent forward and grabbed my ankles.
My heart-shaped locket dangled in front of my nose. “Sissy, you have to wear this so you don’t forget me,” my six-year-old sister, Ava, said to me merely hours ago. I let go of my left ankle and opened the locket. It contained a small photo of Ava with a big cheesy grin. I concentrated on the photo. Oh, little Ava. Tears soaked my face, the locket, the floor below me.
Where was my phone? I frantically dug through my bag under the seat in front of me. The corner of my phone peeked out from the side pocket. I pulled it out. I opened the group text message with my parents. My fingers trembled. What to write? “I love you,” was all I could muster. I hit send. I waited. A red exclamation point popped up. It bleeped. My message failed. There was no service. I tried to resend it. Nothing. I remained with my head dangling between my knees, just staring at the phone. Waiting for it to work. Willing it to work.
The woman next to me grabbed my right wrist. I stuck my phone back in my bag. She whispered, “I’m supposed to get married next month. I don’t want to die.” She was the adult, but I was all she had at that moment.
“What’s your name?” I asked. This was likely the last person I’d talk to, and I didn’t even know who she was.
“I’m Jessica.” We may be about to die, but we weren’t going to die strangers.
Death seemed certain. My stomach felt like it couldn't catch up to the plane as it dove towards the ocean. I prayed every prayer I could think of. And then I felt it. A shift. The plane leveled. My stomach caught up to the rest of me. We weren’t falling as quickly anymore. We were gliding. My muscles relaxed and I breathed in, but my heart kept pounding in my ears.
I sat up and peered out the window. We were below the white puffy clouds, but far above the ocean. We were still descending, just much more slowly.
“We’re not safe yet, are we?” Michelle asked, still crouched over in the brace position. I shook my head. She sniveled. “We’re so close to Hawaii, though. Just an hour away.”
An hour away with a working plane. At the rate we were dropping, even if slower than before, there was no chance we’d make it to any of the Hawaiian Islands.
“Heads down, grab ankles, stay down. Heads down, grab ankles, stay down,” the flight attendants droned on and on. With the plane’s slower descent, the instructions almost became background noise rather than a dire warning.
I decided to focus on survival. I ignored the fact that the plane could still crash into the water or that even with a gentle landing, it could sink quickly. I kept my thoughts away from the Portuguese Man-of-War, the box jellyfish, the tiger sharks, and all the other creatures I had been studying about in marine biology class that lurked in the Pacific Ocean. And who knows how long it could take for someone to find us. But there was a chance to live, and I was hanging onto it. It was the only thing keeping me from totally freaking out like the guy two rows in front of me, whose wheezes were interrupted occasionally with deep gasps.
I grabbed the emergency instruction brochure from the backseat pocket in front of me to remind myself what to do in case of a water landing. I flipped it back and forth, the plastic warbling.
“There’s an emergency exit seven rows ahead of us,” I told Michelle.
I ran my hands under my seat. Ew, something gooey stuck to my finger. Probably gum. I wiped my finger off on the coarse seat cover. I tried, unsuccessfully, to angle my head to look under the seat, but the seat in front of me got in my way.
Michelle asked, “What are you doing?”
“Do you see a life jacket under here?”
Her head still dangling between her legs, she said, “Yeah, I think so.”
“We should pull them out now. Be ready.” We took out the yellow vinyl life vests and placed them over our heads, but held off on inflating them. I gave a light blow into the whistle to test it out; it let out a quiet shrill. I then recited all of the safety precautions I could think of to Michelle.
I turned to my brother in the back and held up the emergency brochure and pointed to it. “Read this!” I said over the noise of others talking. He rolled his eyes, but he reached down and then lifted up the card. I felt a bit better knowing he was preparing himself. I may be the younger sister, but sometimes he needed that push to get shit done.