People who live in the UK might have heard about the YA Book Prize: it's an award for the best UK young adult book and the winner will be announced in March. However, there is already a shortlist with 10 of the best UK YA books of 2014. Up until March, I will read each of these books (one a week) and post a review - I'm reading the books in the same order as the YA Book Prize twitter account is. This week was the week of Salvage by Keren David.
When I started reading Salvage I was not impressed. It's the story of Cass and Aidan, who both narrate in turn about their lives and what happens to them. For one, I was sure one of them was going to die, because that's basically why double narration in YA was invented. Secondly, I thought they were both pretty bland and boring (especially Cass). However, I was completely wrong. They're not boring, no one dies (spoiler maybe) and this story just completely warmed my heart.
Aidan Jones was my brother. But I couldn't really remember his face. I couldn't remember talking to him or playing with him. He was just a gap, an absence, a missing person.
Before she was adopted by a loving family and raised in a leafy Home Counties town, Cass Montgomery was Cass Jones. Her memories of her birth family disappeared with her name. But when her adopted family starts to break down, a way out comes in the form of a message from her lost brother, Aidan. Having Aidan back in her life is both everything she needs and nothing she expected. Who is this boy who calls himself her brother? And why is he so haunted?
I glance at the paper. There's a big picture on the front page. A girl with dark red hair. A girl with eyes that might have been green or they might have been grey. I sit down and stare at Cass, and it is her, it is. My stolen sister.
Aidan's a survivor. He's survived an abusive step-father and an uncaring mother. He's survived crowded foster homes and empty bedsits. His survived to find Cass. If only he can make her understand what it means to be part of his family.
Aidan and Cass
So that summary does a great job of explaining what happens in the book. From there on, it's just one big plot twist after another and I do love myself a good unexpected story.
While I was annoyed by Cass when I started the novel, she really grew on me. She starts off as little miss perfect who is struggling with her parents breaking up. I felt bad for her, but not bad enough to really relate to her - so many people's parents break up, is it really the end of the world? However, as the story progresses, you get to learn more about Cass' life and how her brain works and it makes her so much more relatable. She's a smart girl, trying to cope in a world she doesn't always understand.
Aidan on the other hand kind of made an opposite arc for me. I really liked him at the beginning and started to relate less and less to him as the book went on. He starts off as a guy with an incredibly sad and complicated past. As the book goes on, that past only gets darker and darker. I loved that, but there were some things that didn't really make sense to me (such as his huge fear for a guy named Neal at some point in the story).
You keep on reading
Whether you love Aidan or not doesn't really matter, because the plot is so good that you will have to keep on reading. Every time you think you have the story figured out, there is a new twist that you did not see coming. It makes the 300 pages a breeze to read and I promise you that you won't put it down. Keren David's writing is also so strong that the plot twists are put just at the right times in the novel - you get some room to breathe and enjoy it before being thrown off another cliff in the story.
What I also must mention is that I loved that it was a family story. Most YA books are all about romance and though there is some of that in this story (interracial romance, finally!), the main focus is on how a family heals from certain things that has happened to it. It's original content and it's important young people read those kind of stories too.
So overall, this was a very good read. It was original and was writing in an amazing style. But, because I couldn't really relate to the two main characters throughout the story, this is another four stars (I have been in a four stars mood this year, haven't I?). This four stars though is a high, high four stars and if I did half stars, it would be four and a half. It's an important book and I highly encourage everyone to read it so you can educate yourself about the importance and influence of family - whatever kind of family that may be.