Author: Alexandra Duncan
Category: Young Adult
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: 4-1-14
Ava, a teenage girl living aboard the male-dominated deep space merchant ship Parastrata, faces betrayal, banishment, and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean, in this thrilling, surprising, and thought-provoking debut novel that will appeal to fans of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, and The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. – Goodreads
Salvage was a story that traveled from an isolated spaceship above earth, to a garbage heap in the ocean, to a futuristic city full of great wealth and great poverty. Ava’s world is very small in the beginning and I found that the world building was strong in behavior, while not as strong in description. What I mean is that things like language were very well laid-out in this world. The people on board the ship had a certain way of speaking and verbal expressions that set them apart from people on earth. This allowed me to see in a very clear way how the people on board the ships were different from everyone else, although their differences ran much deeper than just language. I didn’t feel that the description of the ship and the physical life of the Parastrata was as strong. However, that being said, I did get a good sense of the societal structure that kept Ava largely uneducated and subservient. Women were there to cook, clean, and have children. Her talents with mechanics were viewed as odd and discouraged, for the most part, but as I reader I understood that there was a part of Ava that longed for more than the life that was planned for her. While this was sci-fi, there is something universally relatable to that feeling, which helped me feel attached top Ava as a character. When she must escape, her life changes dramatically, as you can imagine. The storytelling sagged a bit in the middle, with some major events feeling rushed, but it managed to right itself, as Ava finds herself stranded in a futuristic Mumbai.
Ava does a fantastic job of fending for herself and those she loves, but I also thought it was interesting that she faces insecurities as the huge gaps in her basic education are exposed. She was ever taught to read or write, and while she is intelligent, her feelings about where she came from still weigh on her. I thought the contrast between those two facets of her, the intelligence and functional illiteracy, were very well written and in line with women and girls who are raised in oppressive cultures. Overall, I couldn’t help but like this story. There was an earnestness to Ava’s journey that gave it a Charles Dickens meets sci-fi kind of feel. There was a small hint of romance, but overall, this was Ava’s story. I saw someone on Goodreads call it “feminist sci-fi” and I think that’s a pretty accurate description. While it faltered a bit in places, I was drawn into its world and enjoyed it, overall.