When the opportunity to review Salvage by Keren David arose, I was incredibly excited. It sounded like a brilliant new book that seemed to have already received much praise. Whilst the book wasn't quite what I had expected, it was an excellent read that discusses much deeper issues that your average young adult book.
Salvage is written from the alternating perspectives of half brother and sister Cass and Aidan. They haven't seen each other in over ten years having been separated at a young age when they were both put into social care. The lives of these two siblings couldn't have been more different with Cass being adopted by a MP, sent to a leading grammar school and thought to be heading to Oxford University, whilst Aidan has moved from foster family to foster family and eventually ended up on his own, at the age of 16, having left school with little to no qualifications and now works in a shop. When Cass' Dad is revealed to be having an affair, her family life is spread all over the newspapers and catches the attention of Aidan who can't believe his luck. Finally having found his little sister he searches for her on Facebook and gets in touch.
Although Salvage may seem like the story of two long lost siblings finding each other, it is actually so much more than that. There are so many different things going on that are all somehow interlinked including family, young love, friendship, parenting and much more. All these different plot strands are seamlessly woven together to create a complex story that will hold your interest throughout. This isn't a particularly action-filled story so don't expect lots of plot twists or anything like that but it's still a really, really good story. Serious issues that affect many youths today are explored and I can't say whether they're factually accurate, but this story sure does make you grateful for the family life you have.
A lot of teenage girls will probably be able to relate to the character of Cass who is 16 years old, under a lot of pressure from her parents to seem outwardly 'perfect', achieve high grades and go to a good university whilst dealing with boy drama and family drama. I wouldn't say she's particularly likeable, but she's got a lot of sass that you can't help but admire. Aidan is a character that you grow to really sympathise with and he has such a big heart. None of these characters are perfect; their lives are pretty messed up and the author isn't afraid to show this. Salvage is definitely a more 'real' story than a lot of other teenage fiction that is currently on shelves and not just because it doesn't feature vampires or werewolves - the characters genuinely seem like real people.
I have to admit I did find the ending a little disappointing. As I was reading the last few pages I could see that there wasn't much story left to go but I felt like there was so much left to say. The ending was bad, per say, I just felt slightly let down in that there wasn't a conclusive ending with one character's story left very open-ended. For some, this could be a good thing as there is plenty of room for imagination and future development, but personally, I like it when stand alone stories have complete finales that leave me satisfied and not feeling like there was something missing. There were a few lose ends which weren't exactly 'important' but it still bothered me that there were left unfinished.
All in all, Salvage was a refreshing young adult read that isn't a story you've read a hundred times before. It is refreshing and deep, the perfect thing to pick up if you're starting to tire of your standard teenage drama.
on 16 February 2014
I must write a warning before I get into the proper review: my review will not do this book the justice it deserves. Believe me, it blew me away, and it takes a real stunner of a book to do that.
Adopted when she’s very young, Cass doesn’t often thing about her life before, let alone her brother. So when a boy contacts her on Facebook one day, claiming to be her brother, she should ignore it, shouldn’t she? But her adoptive family is falling apart and Cass is drawn more and more to a life unlike the stable and normal one she’s lead so far. Aidan, though, has a past totally different to Cass’, and not all of it has been respectable.
The one thing about David’s books that I love is that she can write about any subject and deal with it in just the right way. Never in this book was there an uncomfortable moment and every single word urged me forward. I read Salvage in a day and couldn’t stop thinking about it afterwards. UKYA is known for its gritty topics and this is especially gritty.
One of the themes that most interested me was the class differences between Cass and Aidan. Even though they had the same blood running through their veins, shared the same mother, Cass was privileged and lived with a politician, whereas Aidan had a low-paying job and a girlfriend and her child to support. The differences were always there at the back of your mind and the dissimilarity between the two was clear.
I enjoyed seeing Cass’ naïveté because it helped me to understand Aidan’s life better. I’ve never lived like he does so I think seeing things through Cass’ eyes helped to get to know him more. My mum even says I look like Cass from the back cover, so it was hard not to like her!
Speaking of Aidan, I found him interesting to read about because of the reasons above. I found it fascinating to think that his life could have been so different if he was adopted by the right person. The insight into the life in care and foster homes was thought-provoking and I found it very easy to comprehend.
Salvage was riveting and compelling and I couldn’t put it down. It’s a real eye-opener and I think everybody should read it. It’s a book I think could be taught well in schools and readers will become easily invested in the story. David has produced a masterpiece that I can’t give enough praise to.
I can't explain Salvage any better than the description above, because it was that description that had me intrigued instantly and so keen to read it that I started it as soon as it had arrived in the post. Salvage revolves around Aiden and Cass, a brother and sister who were separated when they were younger, with Cass being adopted into a family where her new father becomes an MP. Aidan on the other hand isn't so lucky, and he stumbles through life, surviving, until by chance he sees a picture of Cass in the paper. But what will happen if Aidan can contact her?
One of the things that I liked most about Salvage is that Keren doesn't hold back in portraying the lives of Aidan, Cass and the others around them. Keren David provides a very real setting with complex characters that have been through some very horrific and life-changing moments, and as a reader I could see the impact and effects that these moments have had on them, both physically and emotionally.
Aidan and Cass are fantastically written, I loved that they both had their own chapters, because then I could read the scenes from their points of view and it helped me to understand them as characters more. Their emotions are so well drawn, Keren perfectly captures the confusion, happiness and fear of finding your real family. I found Aidan's story in particular very gripping. I really felt for him as I read about everything he had gone through. His pain and his efforts to have stability in his life radiated from the pages and I really wanted to reach out to him. I could see how past events had impacted on the life he had in the present and I really found myself rooting for him. I was hooked to his story and I kept turning the pages because I was desperate to know what would happen to him.
I liked Cass, I warmed to her straight away, and I really enjoyed reading about the secondary characters in her life, such as her brother Ben, and her mum and dad too. I really loved Will, I felt he provided some light-heartedness to the story and so his scenes made me smile as it lifted the book a bit.
Salvage is very emotional and it has stayed with me long after I finished the last page because of how lifelike the story is. I feel as though I have been on a huge rollercoaster of emotions, I have felt happiness, fear, heartache and so much more whilst hooked to these pages - wow.
Salvage is a highly emotional and raw story, with characters that will draw you in and a story that you won't be able to put down.
The thing about a Keren David book is: once you start, it's impossible to stop reading. I think I used the word "unflinching" in a review of Keren's Lia's Guide to Winning the Lottery, and unflinching is exactly what Salvage is. The story itself is just the tip of an iceberg of sharp social observation exploring all the layers of grey that divide this society we live in - what is privilege? What is family? What is hope? The messiness of the lives of the protagonists take us to the edge of hopelessness. I found myself shedding a few tears at the oddest moments - when Cass notices the fragility of her mother, despite the armour of make-up and hair treatments, when kindness is glimpsed through the relentless assault of despair. This is a book that says so much and feels so much, I was sorry when it ended because I didn't want to leave the protagonists behind. It is pacy contemporary teen fiction - unafraid to witness the worst - with a mighty heart.
on 19 December 2015
Reposted from my blog at https://vasusbookcase.wordpress.com/2015/11/01/salvage/
I had never heard of Keren David before I bought this book, but the lure of a story that focused on sibling relationships was too much for me to resist. I love family stories, and while this book does contain romance I still found it very enjoyable.
The novel is well-paced; there is a lot of mystery surrounding Aidan’s past and Cass’s adoption that are revealed bit by bit and suspense is high throughout the story. As Aidan is blackmailed and his life starts to disintegrate, things get faster and more desperate until an action-packed climax. The romantic development between Cass and her friend Will is also interesting, and didn’t bore me like romance plots usually do.
I liked most of the novel’s characters. I thought Cass was very relatable; a ‘good girl’ who strove for perfection and felt a lot of academic pressure. I loved the dynamics in her adopted family, between her MP father, who has an affair with a much younger intern; her mother, who gave up her job to be an MP’s wife and is now at a loss what to do; and her younger brother, Benjamin, who struggles with bullying at school. Will, who persists in associating with Cass even when she shrugs him off, was definitely a highlight: he isn’t afraid to be different and teaches Cass to stop drawing away from people, and he has the most humorous dialogue in the book. Aidan, who narrates the novel along with Cass, was also very lovable and complex. At first, you feel as if he doesn’t deserve to be ignored by his mother and to have never escaped from his difficult childhood through adoption, but as the story progresses the slightly darker side of his character is revealed. However, I did feel that Aidan’s relationship with his girlfriend, Holly, was not at all realistic. They didn’t seem to love each other at all and spent most of their time quarrelling. I was expecting Aidan to realise that Holly wasn’t the right person for him and to leave her, but he kept on insisting to us that he loved her. He seemed to care more for her two-year-old son than for Holly herself.
The novel is generally quite well-written, though towards the beginning of the novel there are some grammatical mistakes and some tense changes. It doesn’t help that Aidan’s chapters are in the present tense whilst Cass’s are in the past tense, which can be a bit confusing. However, I thought that David was excellent at conveying her characters’ emotions and Salvage was definitely a heart-wrenching read. Where it really succeeded was in the questions it explored. I loved how the contrast between Cass’s life and Aidan’s was highlighted, and it made me think about how much class difference still exists in modern Britain. I also liked seeing how much pressure Cass was under to appear perfect; I think YA books don’t always acknowledge how stressful school life can be and it was quite relieving to see it discussed. Some other interesting themes were violence, alcoholism, depression, poverty… she even got racism in there. Despite this, Salvage doesn’t feel like an ‘issue book’: the characters are fully dimensional and the questions raised fit naturally with their story. Even though some of the themes are quite dark, David handles them gently and the story is not too mature for younger readers.
Overall, this was an intelligent novel set in contemporary times that explored a range of modern issues and had some delightful characters. I would recommend it to anyone aged thirteen and up.
on 25 October 2014
A lovely, sensitive and ultimately uplifting contemporary story about two teens reunited after a long absence. The dual narrative was
compelling, and I was rooting for a positive outcome for both. Highly recommended.
on 1 August 2014
Excellent pacy novel that you can tell has been written by someone with serious journalistic skills….which I like! the story is handled with sensitivity and is really touching! Highly recommend
on 16 January 2014
Originally posted on Serendipity Reviews.
This might be the first book I've read by Keren David, but I am absolutely certain it won't be my last. I was hooked from page one and carried it everywhere with me until I finished it. And what an emotional ride I took! The story tugs on your heart strings while keeping you completely engrossed. Encompassing difficult subjects such as foster care, families breaking down and physical and mental abuse, you find yourself desperate for a happy ending.
The story has a dual narrative and each character jumped off the page. It was fascinating to read such contrasting lifestyles. Cass has been brought up with the best of everything, where as Aidan had made do with the world's left overs. Yet neither are happy with their lives. Cass feels pressured to perform well at school by her crumbling family while also dealing with the fall out from her father's rather public affair. Aidan is just waiting for the past to catch up with him. These characters are so different in some ways, but very similar in others. They were both lonely and looking for the missing piece in their lives; not that Cass realised that in the beginning.
The story unfolded at a steady pace and you soon realise there is more to Aidan than we are first shown. He is finally in a place where he is happy, yet he knows it could all easily shatter before him. As the book suggests, he is broken, but with the help of Holly, he is slowly mending. Yet as I mentioned above, he has a past, which is threatening to ruin his new found happiness.
The ending was brilliant. I loved the way the family dynamics changed and finally both characters seem to discover and realise what they had actually been looking for. When I finished reading the book, I realised the story had stayed with me. It left me with hope for the children who do experience difficult upbringings; that perhaps hope can be salvaged to finally bring a little ray of happiness into their lives. That perhaps they won't let their unfortunate beginnings define the person they become.
If I had to compare it with another book, it would be Blood Familly by Anne Fine, which also looks at the effects of adoption on a child coping with their past. This is a gritty and realistic read - a perfect example of UKYA at it's best.
on 16 December 2014
I love Keren David's writing - complex characters in challenging situations - her writing lives and breathes.
on 3 December 2014
Oh Cass, and Aidan! Wonderful company on the train today. What gorgeous story telling. Loved it.