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Non 1001 Book Review: The Survival Game by Nicky Singer


Tomorrow our shadow panel returns with our 2018 Man Booker feature. For the next month we’ll be sharing our views on the Man Booker longest (announced tomorrow). While we wait for the announcement, here’s a “lighter” (aka less literary) review for those of you who are fans of YA dystopia.

The Survival Game by Nicky Singer
Published in: 2018
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: ★★★★★

This ARC was provided by Hodder Children’s Books (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis from Goodreads: In a world full of checkpoints and controls, can love and hope defy the borders? A searing, timely story, as arresting as it is beautiful.

Mhairi Anne Bain owns only two things: a gun with no bullets and her identity papers.

The world is a shell of what it once was. Now, you must prove yourself worthy of existence at every turn, at every border checkpoint. And if you are going to survive, your instincts will become your most valuable weapon.

Mhairi has learnt the importance of living her own story, of speaking to no one. But then she meets a young boy with no voice at all, and finds herself risking everything to take him to safety.

And so Mhairi and the silent boy travel the road north. But there are rumours that things in Scotland have changed since she has been away. What Mhairi finds there is shocking and heart-breaking, but might finally re-connect her to her sense of self and to the possibility of love.

An extraordinary story about survival and what it costs, about the power of small kindnesses to change everything.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: I loved everything about this book and it earned a rare 5 star rating from me. While this is classed as a YA book, it tackles very adult themes including attempted rape and murder, so consider yourself warned.

Some people may ask whether we need yet another YA dystopian story and I would say yes we definitely need this one. In fact I think all young people in privileged countries like the UK should read this to get an understanding of what it means to be a refugee, to have nothing or to have lost everything you ever, had including your sense of self.

The dystopian element in this book comes from a lack of resources left on earth and the fact that “Global Citizens” have signed an agreement (think Logan’s Run) for population control. The usual refugee story is turned on its head because the main character Mhairi is a 14 year old Scottish expat trying to return to the Scottish Isle of Arran.

I loved the central characters Mhairi and Mo. Mhairi has done questionable things but as the book progresses we get to see how her character changes and how certain events contribute to her actions. Mo never speaks a word and yet he has a major impact on the story. Mo will break your heart with his silence.

I like the fact that this book is not black and white it allows room for shades of grey. It posed the question about how resources are allocated when they are scare and whether compassion for one person should be put ahead of the needs of society as a whole. The fact is I can easily imagine the world of this novel becoming reality given the right circumstances.

Here are some quotes I just have to share

“Because this is what hope does, what the heart does. It refuses to know what the head knows.”

“I used to think time was simple. And also numerical, that it ticked by at a certain rate. I have discovered that this is not true.”

“But what about the no-real. the fictions? The things we make up ourselves and then give names to as if they were as real as rocks? Things like:




And also borders.

Always borders.

Borders. Borders. Borders.”

Who would like this book? I would recommend this to those who enjoy dystopian fiction with a deeper message that makes you think. This book will do that, it will break your heart and, if you are anything like me, you will want everyone to read it. Seriously read it already and if you don’t enjoy it you can always blame me.

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? Do you like dystopian fiction? What makes for a good dystopian novel?

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