The Mountains of Instead

Championing fiction as an escape from pandemics, politics and bad TV.

We Are Family (Salvage by Keren David)

Keren David
Atom 2014

Cass Montgomery always knew that she was adopted.  No biggy really, her mother had her young and couldn't cope and so she was raised by loving, middle-class perfecto-parents in a leafy English suburb.  She can remember almost nothing of her birth family and she doesn't really mind.  Why would she want to remember?  Aiden Jones, on the other hand, can do nothing but remember. Shunted between foster families, children's homes and occasionally back to his incapable mother, Aiden's fractured childhood has created a frightened, angry and lost young man.  Lost that is, until he sees his younger sister Cass's face on the front of a national newspaper.  Could this really be his chance to see her again and maybe even to find something positive from the wreck of his childhood?  And could Cass be about to discover that her beginnings were not quite as humble as she thought?  Or will families be just as difficult as we know and love them to be, regardless of their make-up or background? 

There is no escaping it, this is a gritty read.  Really, it's not one for a rainy day but it's messages are extremely important, especially for a younger audience.  Adoption is not exactly new fodder for YA authors, although the inclusion of class differences and also the argument of nature v nurture make this a really refreshing view.   Whilst there are certainly flashes of light in the dark, Aiden's story in particular is close to the bone and may be uncomfortable reading for some. I think this, however, leads to Aiden being a surprisingly likable character - for all of his flaws, and there are many, we can see that he is a product of his upbringing and we are instantly drawn to him, hoping that he will be helped and sheltered.  Cass on the other hand is a funny one.  Aloof, a little entitled despite her start in life, a-wash with first world problems, I felt her to be a little remote throughout.  I couldn't quite get her although, on a second reading, I think this is intentional as she doesn't seem to quite get herself.  Her journey can seem a little "teenage girl-y" in parts but it provides a perfect contrast to Aiden's more harrowing path.  Keren David bestows vivid characterisation on her supporting cast just as much as on Cass and Aiden and the reader is met with a wealth of believable and rounded characters, particularly Aiden and Cass's birth mother and Aiden's girlfriend, which make the world complete and engaging on an additional level.            

Keren David has opted for a dual-narrative approach giving the reader differing perspectives in each chapter with events often crossing over between the two narrators.  Both Cass and Aiden's voices are strong and unique enough to cope with this and the structure builds momentum and interest in what would otherwise have been a very plot-light outing.  Please don't think it's the case, however, that Salvage is boring - at worst it is a slow-burner, at best a great example of slice-of-life drama.  If you are after page after page of action, thrills, spills and suspense, Salvage probably isn't for you but if you are looking for solid, hard-hitting writing that will leave you thinking after the last word, give this one a go.  A title that I am sure will appeal to adults and young adults alike.    

This review was brought to you by Polka-Dot Steph. Salvage is available now. Thank you to Atom for sending us this title to review.



I really ... was going to say enjoyed .. but that's probably the wrong word ... this. I loved how the two main characters contrasted each other.

Great & thoughtful review :)
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