Unless you follow me on twitter (and even then), you may not know that I’ve become an intense hockey fan in the last year. Weird, huh? Here’s what happened: I moved to DC from Seattle, my hometown. I had years of indoctrination in Seattle sports fandom, and I wasn’t about to adopt my new city’s teams. HOWEVER. We don’t have NHL hockey in Seattle. And DC has a dynamic team, the Capitals. My friends are Caps fans. It took almost a year, but they converted me. *happy sigh*
What does this have to do with books? Well… Steph Su mentioned The Survival Kit on her blog last year, and I was caught by the mention of a hockey player. What?! Hockey never shows up in YA books. Neither does water polo (my own sport), for that matter. If you have a sports reference, it’s inevitably football/cheerleading, or at least that’s the way it seems. So, I decided that I’d read this book, come he-double-hockey-sticks or high water (see what i did there? i’m hilarious.).
When Rose’s mom dies, she leaves behind a brown paper bag labeled Rose’s Survival Kit. Inside the bag, Rose finds an iPod, with a to-be-determined playlist; a picture of peonies, for growing; a crystal heart, for loving; a paper star, for making a wish; and a paper kite, for letting go.
As Rose ponders the meaning of each item, she finds herself returning again and again to an unexpected source of comfort. Will is her family’s gardener, the school hockey star, and the only person who really understands what she’s going through. Can loss lead to love?
Rose, the recipient of the Survival Kit that gives this book its name, is dealing with grief and loss. She’s turned off emotions, she’s avoiding conflict, and she’s having trouble keeping it together. Enter a special kit, good friends, and a possible distraction in the form of schoolmate Will… and you have Rose’s perfect storm. Nothing is easy for Rose, and that, combined with descriptions of hope and struggling through pain, turn this from a clichéd ‘Mother dies’ novel into a complex rendering of an unthinkably sad situation.
What I liked: well, obviously the hockey. Unless you break out in hives at the mention of sport, this inclusion should be interesting to you. And yes, there are mentions of football and cheerleading to round things out. Freitas also does a great job of incorporating life (friends, guys, family dynamics) in with honest dialogue. The emotion was real. I teared up a time or two.
What I didn’t like: actually, the only thing I will mention here is the prose itself. And that was one chapter. The majority of the book worked, in other words. Just uneven in one, solitary place. I warned you.
Recommended for: fans of Sarah Dessen and Susane Colasanti (good YA contemporary romance, in other words), and those who find themselves even the tiniest bit curious about hockey.