Wednesday, January 9, 2013

If We Survive - by Andrew Klavan

"We were in the cantina waiting for a bus when Mendoza walked in and shot the waiter dead."  With that scene, the novel If We Survive begins, and races through harrowing situation after situation.  Will Peterson, "just [a] sixteen-year-old...from Spencer's Grove, California" and four others have come on a mission trip to Costa Verdes, to help rebuild a school building for the local children.  They've had a successful trip and celebrated the finished project and are only waiting for their pilot to take them back to the states when revolution breaks loose in the country.  Will they make it out?  Can they trust their pilot, Palmer Dunn, a man who seems like a loose cannon, but has military experience in his background?

This book was a little rocky for me.  It started out slowly, taking awhile to adjust to a 16-year-old's point of view and method of relating his experiences.  Once they made it through their first barrier to survival, it began picking up speed and never slowed down.  The writing and suspense had me really wondering if anybody would make it out, and several scenes made me tense until their resolution.  However, even with the good sense of suspense, there was something missing from this book.  It took me awhile to pinpoint it, but I read a book with a similar plotline several years ago, called My Hands Came Away Red, another story of a mission trip caught in a bloody uprising.  With all of the similarities, though, this book lacked any connection to the people involved in the brutality of the revolution.  That's what was missing.  There was a mention or two of the mission-trip kids realizing that the natives were caught in the middle of this, but there was no real compassion or sense of sorrow for the people they'd worked with.  There was just the sense of saving themselves and getting back home to their "normal" lives.  Even Will, who comes to realize "how a person might get to be fearless over time, if he set his spirit on the right path" is still worried more about whether his parents will still be fighting when he gets home than over any sense of loss or trauma from their experience in Costa Verdes.

Overall, I give this book 3 stars.  I definitely got caught up in the action and felt the characters' fear, but I wish that there had been more change or compassion on their part, rather than just a fight for survival.  Even if there had been some reflection on how this would change their lives in the future, it would have been a more satisfying story.

I received a copy of e-book from the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.

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