Thursday, March 1, 2012

Review: The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas

Life was fragile and love was too. At any moment, even our happiest ones, our world could shatter and we wouldn't see it coming. There was only more loss ahead, showing its ugly face when we least expected it. The Rose I became when my mother died, the girl who didn't want to see people, who couldn't have fun, who didn't want to be touched, who refused her friends' help--the Rose I was before Will--was pulling me down again, an anchor tied to my legs, permanent and unforgiving, denying any effort I made to get away. I thought I had lost her but I was mistaken.

I loved Donna Freitas's This Gorgeous Game and since she is another one of those Catholic writers (but this book has nothing to do with faith whatsoever so don't be put off if you're not into that like I am) I'm drawn to I was pleased to learn she had a new book out. But I did not learn about this from book blogs, what happened there? I only learned about it by accident because I was looking her up on Amazon for another purpose. Anyway, I expected to enjoy the book, what I did not expect was to love it as completely and purely as I did. This Gorgeous Game was good, but The Survival Kit is everything that makes reading worthwhile.

Rose's mom died unexpectedly of cancer...sort of. She'd had cancer before so they always sort of knew it could come back, but it came back quickly. And Rose's life was overturned and ever since her mother died, she feels like she died too. She's distant from her boyfriend, she can't listen to music, she can't do the activities she used to love because she's grieving and she feels like she's lost herself. And then she finds that her mom has left behind a survival kit for her, like the survival kits she used to make for the parents of her kindergarten students. The kits holds several items to help Rose through her grief. The purpose of the items isn't obvious, and Rose's mom tells her in a note to use her imagination.

And so Rose starts with the items and tries to figure out their purpose and how they can help her. And that leads to new opportunities for her and introduces her to new people, and gives her courage to make decisions that were difficult for her to make before, decisions she needs to make. And it's not...easy, but the kit takes her a journey towards beginning to heal and maybe find a life again.

And I look at that description and I think...gosh it sounds so cliche but this book is so deeply moving, it's so heartfelt, it's bursting in every word with hope and love and tenderness, I have no way to express how beautiful it is. I sat in the sunshine and read it and I felt the stirrings of hope in my own heart, like the desire to embrace life in it's finest moments or better yet, to find those more meaningful moments in life.

Also it's romantic in the best possible way. The romance is convincing and feels so high school but in a really good way, and it's also not the entire point of the book which makes it even better, it's a wonderful part of a journey for Rose. And Rose is of course likable but not without her flaws. Some of her own struggles and shortcomings become apparent with the struggles over her father's alcoholism and some of the story line with her brother. But it's all so understandable.

I just can't recommend The Survival Kit enough, especially if you are looking for good contemporary YA, this is pretty much as good as it gets. It's not sentimental or cliche or trite. It is instead, life affirming, deeply felt, and honestly hopeful. It's not only a tale about grieving and healing, but also about finding the person you were meant to be all along.

Rating: 5/5
Source of Book: Bought it
Publisher: FSG


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