In the first book Samantha deposed the evil Reverend Crane to free the kids of the island. In the second book much of their little society was wiped out by a hurricane and the only remaining adult--Miss Brigham--was turned into a baby by the fountain water. The third story picks up a few years later when Samantha is 14 and officially the head of the island. The kids have rebuilt much of what has been lost, but a bad harvest and brutal winter has left their supplies badly depleted. Samantha sees no choice but to finally go to the mainland to get what they need.
Meanwhile, Mr. Pryde's son Joseph finds some ancient Native American caves with a bunch of strange old potions inside. As a science nerd, Joseph starts to analyze the potions to unlock their secrets. He does this in large part because he wants to find a way to look all buff and cool to impress Samantha even though she secretly already is crushing on him but doesn't have the guts to tell him. Joseph is successful, though with the unexpected consequence that he starts turning into a huge douche bag.
When he convinces Samantha to start taking the potions too, her friends begin to notice she's becoming a total bimbo. She doesn't believe them, thinking they're just jealous of her. This all leads to an inevitable showdown between Joseph/Samantha and Prudence/Wendell.
Where I think this improves on the previous stories is that it gets the story out of the claustrophobic setting of the island and into the wider setting of the modern world. I mean there's only so much you can do on a tiny rock in the middle of the ocean. As people saw with "Lost" eventually you have to start doing crazy shit like going back in time and whatnot in order to keep things interesting.
Also while the first one especially was aimed at a younger audience, the third volume is more for older readers with romance and even thinly-veiled sex. No, Samantha is not Bella Swan, sighing and biting her lip forever and a day before finally having sex on her wedding night. Though Samantha is also under the influence of the potions.
Since it rotates from Sam/Joe to Prudence/Wendell plus the stuff back on the island it has a lot more epic feel to it than the previous stories. Which is good, I think. The story also answers that age-old question of whether a sow and an infant can drive a car. I'm just saying.
Next week I'll wrap up the series. Hooray!
Tomorrow you can win a free ebook and get a preview of Michael Offutt's "Oculus" in conjunction with the blogathon of doom!