Book: The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, October 11, 2011
Genre/Format: Young Adult Contemporary, Library book, 353 pages
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
I have been reaching for a lot of contemporary books lately, and more often than not the stories have been a little on the sad side, such as with The Survival Kit. In this book, Rose’s mother has just died of cancer, leaving behind Rose, a son and a husband. Rose’s mother was famous for creating survival kits for the parents of her students at school and they have become an annual tradition. She touchingly left a survival kit behind for Rose to find after her death, filled with some unusual items to help her daughter heal. Inside the bag are: an iPod, a photo of peonies, a crystal heart, a box of crayons, a paper star and a paper kite. As Rose slowly finds a way to use each item in the bag, she discovers that all the contents are bringing her closer to Will, a fellow student and the family’s gardener, who is also no stranger to grief. Family relationships, friendships, love and the healing power of music are some of the themes explored in this heartwarming story.
I found this story to be very lovely, with genuine and likable characters and an addictive story. I was pulled into the story immediately and couldn’t put it down until I was finished. Rose’s journey is easy to relate to, and to understand where she’s coming from. She has shut herself off from her boyfriend, cheerleading, and music because she is mourning the loss of her mother, and having fun doesn’t feel right to her. Each step she takes with the help of the survival kit enables her to begin to live her life again. She also has the burden of taking care of her father, who is engaging in self-destructive behavior as a means to cope. All of this makes Rose seem very mature and wise beyond her years, and it’s interesting to watch her take small steps in the healing process.
This book is not all doom and gloom, however. It is actually quite charming. One of the aspects I liked a lot is that Rose gets involved with watching hockey games with her cheerleading pals, and Will happens to be a star hockey player. It’s fun to see Rose get hooked on the game and it brings her closer to her friends again while getting closer to Will. It’s also great that the cheerleaders are portrayed as really nice and friendly, as well as talented athletes in their own right, and not stereotypes at all. Even Rose’s former boyfriend Chris is not a typical football player and manages to surprise.
The romance is believable and sweet, and a little rocky at times. Will is a complex guy and has a lot in common with Rose. The romance is slow building and they have great chemistry and many swoon-filled moments. Rose’s mom did a good job of matchmaking with these two.
Also, I always fall for books that include music in the storytelling and this book is no exception. I loved how Rose slowly added music back into her life one song at a time. It really added something special to the story.
This is one of the best written contemporary books I’ve read and ranks right up there with Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour and The Sky is Everywhere. The characterizations, pacing, story, romance, and themes were all wonderful. I borrowed this book from the library but would love to add it to my personal collection. Can’t wait to read more from this author.
Other Review of The Survival Kit:
11 thoughts on “The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas”
Man, you write beautiful reviews. There seems to be a lot of books where teens are dealing with the loss of a parent. I wonder if that is a statistical trend or just one where they authors have had a personal experience.
Thanks, Amy! I wonder too why the loss of a parent is used so often in books lately. Maybe the topic brings more storytelling opportunities too.
Thank you for the lovely review. I’ve now added this one to my tbr list.
I saw this book a while back – I think before it even came out – and fell in love with the synopsis. And then I guess I just forgot about it… so glad you read and reviewed it to remind me! Very great review and I’m really looking forward to reading this now!
Think you will like this one Andrea & Candice. There are so many good contemporary reads out lately.
I loved this book, too Lucy. But it’s so interesting that you made the observation about Rose’s mom essentially setting her up with Will because that never occurred to me! OF COURSE it makes sense, though! Peonies + cute gardener = <3. Moms are geniuses sometimes, huh?
Also, I'm a BIG FAN of your shout-outs to Amy and Roger's Epic Detour and The Sky Is Everywhere. Those are two of my absolute favorite contemps!! We have VERY good taste 😉
Yeah, it seems that Rose’s mom was on to something wasn’t she? I definitely got a big Amy & Roger vibe from this book. High praise indeed.
Loved your review of the book!
Ooo, a wonderful contemporary? Count me in.
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I loved this one too – I agree that the characters are genuine for sure. And I found it addicting also, I easily read it in one sitting 🙂
thanks for linking to my review!
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