Sal – Mick Kitson
Expected Publication: 1st March 2018 by Canongate Books
Sal is about two young sisters who run away to live in rural Scotland. Sal is thirteen and her sister, Peppa, is ten. Sal has accumulated plenty survival equipment, like her Bear Grylls knife, waterproofs and a first aid kit. She’s armed with the SAS Survival Handbook and the extraordinary catalogue of survival skills she’s learnt from watching YouTube videos and survival programmes.
Sal is an original and unique story about sisterly love, the kindness of strangers and the harsh realities of life. As Sal and her sister are surviving in the Galloway Forest, we gradually learn about their background and how they came to be in their situation and what made Sal so desperate that the only possibility she saw was surviving in the wilderness. There is a history of neglect and abuse for nearly all of the characters in this story and the truth about it all slowly comes to light.
The story was told from the first person perspective of Sal and her voice was clear and distinctive. The writing style was very simple but it was appropriate and made you feel like you were really in Sal’s mind. Sal was a special character, fierce and determined despite being so damaged.
What I loved about this story the most was that Sal was well and truly the heroine of her own story. Not only that but she was also the heroine of all the people around her as well and this was powerful yet authentic. I really loved how Sal told the story in a way that was so clear to her. Things were often so simple in her mind, yet as an outsider looking in, you could see the wider complexities and implications.
There were laugh out loud moments in this book as well as moments that were tough to read and heart-wrenching. The relationship between Sal and her sister Peppa was at the heart of this story and the love and protection Sal feels for Peppa outweighs everything else in this story.
This story was about the harshest aspects of life and the torment and traumatic events people go through and how this impacts throughout their whole life; as well as the implications it has for the next generation. Through all of this though, it was also about the things that matter in life and the way the smallest triumphs have to make it all worth it.
After finishing this book, I had a melancholic feeling because it makes you think about the unspeakable things some people go through and how it isn’t fair. It makes you think about people who never experience feelings of love, care and safety and how this affects them. I loved how this book made me think and I loved that it showed a character coming from the harshest of backgrounds and neglect, to come out so strong and loving despite what the world dealt her.
As a Scot, another thing I loved about this book was the setting. The beautiful and untouched natural setting and all of the wildlife that came with it. It really portrayed the beauty of Scotland in all its forms. On top of that, the dialogue and the frequent use of Scots words was also really authentic and not something you often see represented in literature.
I definitely recommend this book to all.