After attending the North East Teenage Book Awards, NETBA, around two weeks ago, I decided to pick up a copy of Keren David’s Salvage. I can tell you now that it was one of the best things I’ve done in a while.
Salvage follows the journey of two seemingly parallel characters who are impossibly identical at the same time. Cass Montgomery, daughter of a Government Minister and his wife, lives in luxury. She is soon going to apply for the University of Oxford and study History, the subject she thinks she’s passionate about. Aidan Jones, daughter of a lousy mother and a dead father, lives less in poverty than he did as a child, but is still in a pretty bad place. The one thing that unites these two characters together is that they are in fact brother and sister.
Cass Montgomery is not biologically the daughter of the Government Minister and his wife, she too is the daughter of a lousy mother and an abusive father. She is a very happy young woman in the comfort of her adoptive father and mother, but it is only when Cass’ father has an affair with a woman over half his age his junior and gets her pregnant that Cass begins to question her entire identity. The questions and publicity surrounding her father’s affair means that she is subsequently reunited with her brother Aidan after he reads (as much as he can) all about the affair and Cass in the newspaper.
Aidan Jones is not just a plain old forgotten character and brother, he has his own story and a very dark secret as a consequence of his early years. While he is in some ways cast aside, Aidan has attempted to build a life for himself again and has done a good job of it with his girlfriend Holly and her son Finn. From the outside looking in, Aidan Jones is a normal, good-looking 19-year-old, but delve deeper into his character and you will find a lifetime of suffering with only a little hope left.
This story is not light-hearted and simple – it is quite the opposite. Salvage is a book documenting the real struggles of true life and of family, the truth that there is no ‘perfect’ family at all. Every family has its qualms and quirks and every family is unhappy in its own way. Showing the harsh reality of adoption in the midst of it all, as well as highlighting the long-term effects of abuse and society. It is really something that every young adult should have on their reading list, especially since it poses some questions for the reader too.
Salvage was robbed of winning the North East Teenage Book Awards’ prize two weeks ago despite winning the Highly Commended award. But this means that it should now be given the justice it deserves and that means picking up the book and not putting it down until you’re finished because, let me tell you, that’s exactly what will happen. Chapter after chapter you will fall deeper in love with Cass Montgomery and Aidan Jones and it is not a love affair to miss out on.