19 November 2012

Review: If We Survive by Andrew Klavan

If We Survive is the story of four teenagers in the fictional Central American country of Costa Verdes, on a mission trip to rebuild a school, destroyed by the volcanoes.  Nicki Wilson, Jim Nolan, Meredith Ward and Will Peterson, supervised by Pastor Ron, have finished their week in the village and are waiting for Palmer Dunn, their pilot, to finish his drink and fly them back to the capital of Costa Verdes, so they can catch their flights home. But revolution erupts, and they are caught in the middle.

If We Survive is told in the first person from the point of view of sixteen-year-old Will, who tells us his story in a very conversational tone that directly addresses the reader. The language is very visual. For example, in introducing us to each of the people on the mission trip, Will gives a physical description, a character assessment, then tells a story illustrating their personality. So even when he tells, he's also showing us what happened.
“I just wish I could tell you that all of us made it home alive.”

That's how Chapter One ends. With lines like that, Klavan has certainly perfected the art of creating an unputdownable page turner. As I was reading, I was telling myself that Will must survive, if for no other reason than he is the narrator. After all, very few novels attempt a dead narrator, and even fewer succeed (but it has been done). Was I right? You’ll have to read it to find out.

It has to be admitted that the characters (especially Jim and Nicki) are somewhat stereotypical, but these kinds of characters have become stereotypes because there is something in them we recognise. But they each learn and grow as the story progresses and their beliefs about themselves are challenged. Will is a Christian and prays a lot, but (in line with a typical teenage boy) is never preachy.

If We Survivee is a novel aimed at the Young Adult (teenage) market. There is a lot of violence (mostly implied, without any real detail) but no sex, no sensuality and no swearing. It reminded me of CrossFireand Betrayedby JM Windle, but more fast-paced and with a teenage focus. A Christian YA novel that will appeal to lovers of adventure (and their parents). Recommended.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and BookSneeze® for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Andrew Klavan at his website

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