I can’t tell you where I heard about Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder. What I can tell you is that I recommended it to my favorite high school teacher’s 12 year old before I finished reading it.
About (from Amazon)
On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts.
And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them—and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again.
Today’s Changing is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny’s best friend, Deen, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility now—to teach Ess everything she needs to know about the island, to keep things as they’ve always been.
But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will come back—and take her away forever from the only home she’s known?