29 July 2020

The Island - Cover Reveal

The Island
by C.L. Taylor



What they say: Lost meets The Hunger Games in the thrilling new young adult novel from C.L. Taylor, the Sunday Times and million-copy bestselling author.

Welcome to The Island.
Where your worst fears are about to come true…

It was supposed to be the perfect holiday: a week-long trip for six teenage friends on a remote tropical island.

But when their guide dies of a stroke leaving them stranded, the trip of a lifetime quickly turns into a nightmare.

Because someone on the island knows each of the group’s worst fears. And one by one, they’re coming true.

Seven days in paradise. A deadly secret.

Who will make it off the island alive?


#TheIslandBook

Coming in 2021


Read the first chapter:

page1image66344576page1image66349952CHAPTER 1 

JESSIE 

Life would be so much easier if I were a psychopath. I’d be charming, manipulative and a pathological liar. I also wouldn’t be wondering what Danny, Honor, Jeffers, Meg and Milo are talking about on the other side of the pool, their faces cast in shadow, the Thai night sky a blank blanket above them. And I definitely wouldn’t be convincing myself that they’re talking about me. Even if they were, I wouldn’t care. But the biggest advantage of being a psychopath by a mile would be lack of empathy. Life doesn’t hurt as much if you stop caring. 

‘Who’s up for a swim?’ Honor, who’s been intertwined with Danny on a sun lounger for the last hour, wriggles out of his grasp and stands up. She slips off her flip-flops, strips off her T-shirt and wriggles out of her shorts. It’s dark and the surface of the pool is still and calm, striped with the reflected glow of the hotel and dotted with candlelight. Honor dives in, barely making a splash. She pulls her arms through the water, blonde hair streaming behind her. 

Seconds later Danny’s in too. He tries to grab Honor around the waist but she slips away like a fish and swims almost a whole length underwater. 

‘Meg?’ Honor’s voice echoes off the walls of the hotel complex as she breaks through the water, just a few feet away from me. It’s after eleven and an older couple to my right, talking quietly on their sun loungers, sigh loudly. ‘Milo? Jeffers? You coming in? We could play water polo?’ She glances at me and the expression on her face changes: uncertainty replaces excitement. She doesn’t know whether to invite me to join them or not. I pull the sleeves of my top down over my hands and shift in my seat. Swimming’s one of my favourite things in the world and I’m good at it – I’ve swum for the county – but I haven’t been in the pool since we got here and I’m not about to start now. 

‘You guys go ahead,’ I shout. ‘I’ll watch.’ 

As holidays go this is right up there with the time we went to Center Parcs and Danny did a poo in the corner of the ball pit at soft play. OK, so we were all three at the time but the memory of the warm squelch as I put my hand in it is indelibly burnt into my brain. The walking tour of the Scottish Isles when we were all twelve was pretty grim too. It never stopped raining and I slipped and twisted my ankle when we were still an hour away from the car. Almost every year since we were born there’s been an enforced group holiday and now here we are, in Thailand, a disparate group of teenagers forced to socialise with each other because our parents happened to go to the same antenatal group over seventeen years ago. Our friendships have changed over the years. As five- and six-year-olds Honor and I were about as close as two little kids could be. We tried to include Meg in our games but she was more interested in trying to muscle in on the games Milo, her twin brother, was playing with Jeffers and Danny. As pre-teens Meg gravitated back to me and Honor and there was a distinct girls versus boys dynamic. That all changed when hormones kicked in and Honor and Danny got together and me and Milo . . . well, I’m not sure how to describe that. We danced around each other, I guess. Sometimes I fancied him and he didn’t fancy me. Sometimes it was the other way round. It’s not that we’ve got a ‘thing’. It’s more of a ‘non thing’ but it’s not just friendship, not like me and Danny or Jeffers. 

Don’t get me wrong, Thailand is amazing. The people are so smiley and friendly, the food is delicious, the streets are buzzing and vibrant and the scenery is breathtaking. Yes, it’s hot and humid but, hello, I’d rather be dripping with sweat over here than dripping with rain in England. No, Thailand’s not the problem, nor is the amazing complex we’re staying in. The fact is I can’t do holidays like this anymore. The others don’t know how to act around me and I’ve forgotten who I used to be. I can’t relax. I’ve forgotten how to banter, and if I catch myself laughing, I immediately feel guilty. I might be seventeen but I feel like I’m a hundred years old. 

‘Jessie?’ I jolt as Milo appears behind me. I was so caught up in watching Danny trying, and failing, to lift Honor above his head that I didn’t notice him slip away from the table he was sitting at with Meg. She’s changed since we hit our teens. She used to be competitive, loud and outspoken. These days, if she does speak, it’s usually to say something snarky. 

‘Hi.’ I shove my hands beneath the table and smile, tightly, up at Milo as my heart hammers in my chest. Like his sister he’s got jet black hair but, while Meg’s tumbles over her shoulders in dark corkscrews, Milo’s is shaved around the sides and wavy on top. 

‘I’m going to the bar.’ He reaches a hand towards me and, for one heart-stopped second, I think he’s going to touch me. Instead he places his hand on the back of my chair and rests his weight against it. He glances towards my glass, most of my mojito mocktail long gone. ‘Do you need a top-up?’

Instinctively I glance across the pool, to Meg, sitting in her seat, hunched forward, her elbows on her knees, watching us. If Milo was interested in me, which these days he’s not, she wouldn’t approve and who could blame her? Who needs my kind of screw-up in their life? If you need me I’ll turn my back. If you want to talk I’ll run. And if you love me . . . 

Something lurches inside me – like a bruise being pressed – and I twist the tender skin on the underside of my forearm until the feeling fades. I might not be a psychopath but I’ve got my own ways of switching off negative thoughts. My aim is to be in complete control of my emotions. I’m not there yet but one day I will be. 

‘No thanks.’ I look back at Milo. ‘I’m going to bed in a bit.’ 

Something in his gaze shifts. Did he just look disappointed or did I completely imagine that? 

‘Are you going to the bar?’ Danny shouts to Milo from the pool as he launches Honor into the air. She shrieks for all of two seconds then plops back into the water with a splash. ‘I’ll come with you. I want a snack.’ He pauses, waiting for Honor to resurface. ‘Want anything to drink?’ he asks her. 

She runs her hands through her hair, slicking it back from her face. ‘Lemonade, please.’ 

‘You don’t want a cocktail? This barman’s not fussed about ID.’ 

‘Nah. I’m good.’ 

As Danny swims to the side and heaves himself out of the water Milo drifts over to him. I watch as they saunter over to the bamboo bar that’s surrounded by palm trees. When I look back at the pool Honor has swum to the side nearest me. The top half of her body is out of the water, her blonde hair slicked back and her arms folded on the tiles. 

‘Are you OK?’ she asks. 

I stiffen. I can deal with people being kind on WhatsApp and social media but, in person, any kind of sympathy makes me want to cry. Thankfully no one’s pushed me to open up. Other than a few awkward ‘I’m really sorry, Jessie’ comments on the day we arrived no one’s mentioned the reason my family didn’t go on the group holiday to Norfolk last year. And I’d rather it stayed that way. 

‘Fine. Hot, isn’t it?’

Honor takes the hint and changes the subject. ‘Is Milo getting you a drink?’ 

‘No. I said I didn’t want one.’ 

‘Oh right.’ She shrugs lightly. ‘I’m not sure why I asked Danny to get me one. I’m not even thirsty.’ 

Danny’s always doing nice things for her. In the three days we’ve been here he’s rushed up to their room to get things for her at least half a dozen times, given her countless shoulder rubs and, when she didn’t like her fried snapper at lunch, he swapped with his own meal, even though he’s not keen on fish. 

Honor sighs loudly, prompting me to ask her what’s up. She ignores the question and eases herself effortlessly out of the water and sits on the edge. ‘Are you looking forward to going to the island tomorrow?’ 

I shudder, despite the heat. ‘Not really, are you?’ 

She shrugs. ‘Seven days with no 4G, no WiFi, no clean clothes and no soft beds. It’s either going to be hell, or the best thing we’ve ever done.’ She gestures across the pool to Jefferson whose got his face buried in a book. ‘Bear Grylls over there is crapping himself with excitement.’ 

I can’t help but laugh. Jefferson Payne, the youngest of the group by nine days, has been obsessed with camping, hunting and foraging for the last few years. He’s small and wiry with over-sized glasses but, in his head, he’s some kind of action hero. If the WhatsApp group chats are anything to go by he spends every night after school whittling knife handles out of bits of wood and plaiting huge lengths of cord into bracelets. I’m not judging – how he spends his time is his own business – but it is a bit weird that a kid who lives in a three-bedroom house in North London and goes to private school is so obsessed with prepping for the end of the world. 

I’m not sure if it’s the prepper stuff or something else but he’s changed since the last time I saw him. He was always the most reserved kid in our group, but he’s got a real loner vibe going on now. We’ve chatted a couple of times since we arrived – small talk mostly – and I got the distinct vibe that he’d rather be anywhere than hanging out with us. 

If our parents have noticed that we’ve all outgrown these group holidays they’ve chosen to ignore it. They all seem as chilled and relaxed as they normally are. Well, maybe not my parents, not this year. 

‘I mean, it’s only a week,’ Honor says, ‘and the guide will be doing all the hard work building us a shelter and stuff. It’s not like we need to be fashioning spears out of bits of wood and killing fish for dinner.’ 

‘I’m packing Pringles,’ I say. ‘Seriously, sod all the sensible stuff we’re supposed to take with us. I’m filling my bag with—’ I’m interrupted by the slap, slap, slap of flip-flops as two lads – one with a nose ring about our age and the other a couple of years older with closely cropped hair – appear from between the palm trees and saunter towards us. Honor turns to look, flipping her wet hair over her shoulder. Inwardly I groan. I’m paranoid and self-conscious enough with people I know, never mind people I don’t. I should have gone to bed 

while I still had the chance.
‘All right, girls?’ The shorter of the two boys looks me 

up and down dismissively before his gaze rests on Honor. 

Behind him, the older boy smirks. With their blue eyes, fair hair and long, angular faces they’re almost certainly brothers. ‘How you doing?’ The shorter boy with the nose ring plops himself down next to Honor, who immediately angles herself away from him. Her eyes dart towards the palm trees, 

anxiety written all over her face.
‘Jesus,’ the older one says, taking a seat next to me. ‘Aren’t 

you hot wearing that?’
Unlike me, in a long-sleeved top, linen trousers and flip- 

flops, he’s barefoot and naked from the waist up.
‘I’m fine,’ I say, ignoring the fact my top is glued to my 

back with sweat.
‘Each to their own.’ He grins widely and sits back in chair, 

blocking my view of Honor and his brother. ‘I’m Jack by the way, and that’s Josh, my brother.’ 

‘Great.’ 

He laughs. ‘Chatty, aren’t you? How long have you been here?’ 

‘Too long.’ I give him a pointed look. I know what he’s trying to do. He’s trying to keep me distracted so his brother can crack on with Honor. I shift my chair to one side so I can see round him. Short-arse now has his arm around Honor’s shoulders, his fingers denting the skin at the top of her arm. She’s smiling at him but it’s a fixed grin – the kind you use when someone’s overstepping the line but you don’t want to cause a scene. She’s doing her best to wriggle away but he’s tightened his grip, pulling her into his body. Over on the other side of the pool Jeffers still has his nose in his book and Meg has disappeared. 

page9image66330496page9image66323200‘Hey!’ Honor says, whipping her face away as Josh dips his head to kiss her. ‘Leave it out, I’ve got a boyfriend.’ 

‘I heard you guys talking,’ Jack says, shifting his chair towards me. ‘You off on some kind of survival experience tomorrow or something?’ 

I ignore him. His brother has one hand on Honor’s face now and he’s angling her towards him, forcing her to look at him. The hand around her shoulders has slid under her arm and his fingers are plucking at the thin material of her bikini top. 

Beneath the table I pinch at the only patch of skin on my forearm that’s smooth and soft but the tight feeling in my chest remains. I don’t want to get involved but someone has to. This has to stop. 

‘Hey,’ Jack says as I stand up, still gripping the arms of my metal chair and carrying it behind me like a turtle shell as I walk to the edge of the pool. ‘What the hell happened to your hands? Jesus, they look really—’ 

‘Hi.’ As I draw closer Josh releases his grip on Honor’s face and rests his hand on the tiles. He feigns nonchalance, all cocky and chilled—’look at me just chilling by the pool late at night’ – but he’s moved his wandering hand back to Honor’s arm and he’s pinning her to his side. 

‘Where are you going with that chair?’ he asks. ‘Going to take it for a swim?’ 

Behind me his brother laughs. 

‘No.’ I smile down at him. ‘I thought I’d join you. Apparently you don’t have a problem with personal space.’ He looks up at me in confusion but, before he can reply, I lower the chair so one of the metal legs is directly above his hand, then I sit down. His shout fills the air – a howl of surprise morphing into a scream of pain. He pushes Honor away from him and grabs at the chair leg but it doesn’t move an inch. I’m too heavy for him to shift. He looks up at me and I feel a stab of satisfaction at seeing Honor’s fear in his eyes. Nothing happens for what feels like for ever then I hear Jack’s chair scraping on the tiles and his roar of anger. A split second later I’m shoved so hard in the back that I tip forwards. There’s no time to react. All I can do is hold my breath as I fall out of the chair and the lights of the pool rush to meet me. The last thing I hear before my ears fill with water is a single word. 

It sounds a lot like ‘psycho’. 




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