The jungle answered with unknown screeches and a low, murmuring hiss. No one moved. They watched what was left burn. "We should get back and let the others know," Taylor said at last. "It's just us. We're the only survivors. We're on our own." (2.66-67)
This is the moment the beauty queens find out there's no adult to guide them. They're alone in a jungle that is full of the unknown. Spooky.
"Six weeks is a long time, Agent. And it's a hostile island. They'll be lucky to last two days," the Boss answered. (5.17)
The Boss (who we'll soon learn is Ladybird Hope) doesn't believe the girls can survive the island alone. She expects them to die. Typical adult arrogance.
"Fine. Desperate times call for desperate measures." Taylor grabbed a shell and gouged the sand, going deeper and deeper. She reached into the sand and brought up a white, cylindrical bug. It wiggled lazily in her palm. "Who wants to eat first?" (9.39)
Taylor is surprisingly practical when it comes to survival. On the mainland, none of the girls would consider eating bugs, but Taylor knows that right now, it's what they have to do.
But things were different out here in the jungle. It was as if the wheels were coming off the old Sosie. She wasn't interested in being everybody's good sport anymore. The sweet deaf girl mascot. F*** that. (12.15)
Survival has a way of making old concerns seem…small. Now that Sosie is trying to survive, it doesn't make sense for her to be fakely positive about her disability. She has bigger things to worry about.
The bird scrabbled into view. Seeing the girls, it squawked and darted into the dense jungle growth. With a war cry, Sosie grabbed her spear, and she and Jennifer ran after it, full-bore, without second-guessing. (12.70)
Look at our little Jennifer and Sosie! A few days on the island, and they're practically hunting machines. Baller.
Adina stacked pieces of fish on her stick and twirled it over the fire to cook them, as she'd learned to do. "Taylor, I think we're kind of beyond Miss Teen Dream now. I mean, look at us—look what we've built here in the past however long we've been here." (13.200)
After doing what it takes to survive—building actual structures and catching their own meals, the girls don't need to win a beauty pageant to make them feel good about themselves. Which is basically the whole point of the book.
Mary Lou wiped fruit juice from her mouth with the back of her hand. "Maybe girls need an island to find themselves. Maybe they need a place where no one's watching them so they can be who they really are." (15.56)
For girls, isolation means no one is judging them. They get to figure out who they are without having to meet the expectations of anyone else. Yes, that's also the point of the book.
There was something about the island that made the girls forget who they had been. All those rules and shalt nots. They were no longer waiting for some arbitrary grade. They were no longer performing. Waiting. Hoping. They were becoming. They were. (15.58-60)
The words Bray uses here make a different between passive words and more active ones. The girls are doing things for themselves. They aren't passive anymore. They do things—including just be—based on their own decisions and desires, not those of anyone else.
Adina was near tears. She was exhausted, so exhausted that she thought she imagined the sound. It was the faint rumble of a car engine, like something remembered from a dream. Something that reminded her of normalcy. (27.35)
This shows how used to the island Adina has gotten. The sound of a car engine sounds like something that's dreamy and far away, instead of real.
"At first, I was scared to be alone. No routines. No rules. Just me. But I think…" Taylor wiped a tear away. "I think I was always in the jungle. Before. It was always there. I think I had to come out here to find the answer." (37)
This small line explains the former version of Taylor. She imposed all those routines and girls on the other girls because she felt like she needed them, and because she was so used to following them herself. For Taylor, isolation from the real word wasn't enough. She needed to be isolated from everyone to figure herself out.