Sal by Mick Kitson
Firstly, I loved reading this book, secondly I am aware that it could be a bit of a marmite book - for the survival purists it is a big leap of faith to accept the premise of the story which is that a 13 year old schoolgirl and her little sister can survive in the wild armed only with some bear grylls outdoor equipment and knowledge gleaned from youtube videos! It's about not just survival in the outdoors but surviving abuse and ill treatment too.
But as a Bear Grylls fanatic and would-be wild camper myself, I put aside any preconceptions and just rolled with it and found myself enchanted by the voice of Sal and entranced by the characters she meets especially the wonderful Ingrid.
Sal wants to escape the clutches of her alcoholic Mums abusive boyfriend Robert before he turns his attentions to her beloved little sister Pepper. So it follows that she needs to plan this very carefully using any means at her disposal which are mainly a thirst for knowledge and a canny nature.
For a whole year she endures the drunken violence whilst devouring youtube survival videos and binge watching every Bear Grylls episode she can find whilst plotting to escape. Using her stash of stolen credit cards she hoards Amazon and ebay purchases of outdoor all-weather equipment and tools whilst planning and plotting their escape. Until she reaches breaking point and murders the brutish Robert and takes for the wilderness wearing Gore-Tex boots and her rucksack weighted down with Belvita biscuits and Dundee cake.
Into the forest they go and Sal proves to be a capable survivor, with guts and a rough at the edges love for her sibling, coupled with a rare vocabulary of swear words and the innate ability to be able to work out “What Bear Grylls would do” in any given situation. Her rough little voice struck a chord and I loved this kid who shows us how far its possible to go to protect someone we love.
It's delightful and captivating and oh so enjoyable, especially to the kind of reader who dreams of walking out of the door one day and taking up residence in an abandoned shack somewhere remote.
It reminded me of “The Outlander” by Gil Adamson The Outlander which is one of my all time favourite books and I am positive it will be a huge hit.
I genuinely felt bereft when I finished it, it’s one of those books where I really envy everyone who hasn’t read it yet because you’ve got it all ahead to enjoy. Pure reading delight.
Here is the Blurb
This is a story of something like survival.
Sal planned it for almost a year before they ran. She nicked an Ordnance Survey map from the school library. She bought a compass, a Bear Grylls knife, waterproofs and a first aid kit from Amazon using credit cards she'd robbed. She read the SAS Survival Handbook and watched loads of YouTube videos.
And now Sal knows a lot of stuff. Like how to build a shelter and start a fire. How to estimate distances, snare rabbits and shoot an airgun. And how to protect her sister, Peppa. Because Peppa is ten, which is how old Sal was when Robert started on her.
Told in Sal's distinctive voice, and filled with the silent, dizzying beauty of rural Scotland, Sal is a disturbing, uplifting story of survival, of the kindness of strangers, and the irrepressible power of sisterly love; a love that can lead us to do extraordinary and unimaginable things.