Review: Not If I Save You First (Carter)

I read this book because it appears on the 2019-2020 Texas LoneStar Reading List. While I am no longer a Texas librarian, I still love reading the selections on the LoneStar list. Author Ally Carter has been on the LoneStar list before, so it’s surprising to me that this was my first Ally Carter book! I thought I had surely read something by this popular YA author, but nope! I loved this book though, and I know it won’t be my last Ally Carter title.

AUTHOR: Ally Carter
SERIES: none
PUBLISHER: Scholastic
PUBLICATION DATE: March 27, 2018
ISBN: 9781338134148
PAGES: 297
SOURCE: Brooklyn Public Library OverDrive
GENRE: Action-adventure, survival
SETTING: Alaska wilderness, present day
GIVE IT TO: MS, HS

SUMMARY: When Maddie and her best friend Logan were ten, both were caught up in a plot to kidnap the First Lady of the US, who also happens to be Logan’s mother. Maddie’s father, the Head of Secret Service, was injured and abruptly resigned immediately following the incident. He moved Maddie to the Alaskan wilderness, where they have no phone or internet. Fast-forward six years, and Logan is making bad choices that may put him in the path of those who hate his dad, the POTUS. So Logan’s parents send him to live with Maddie and her dad in Alaska so he can stay out of trouble and steer clear of danger from an unseen enemy. Too bad the enemy has already found him.

REVIEW: This was so cute! I loved everything about it–the Alaska setting, the characters, the banter, the wilderness survival stuff…I will have zero problem booktalking this title with my students.

We’ll start with my favorite part–the Alaska setting. In the Author’s Note at the end Ally Carter says she based it on Skagway. I’ve never been to Alaska, but the hubs and I have talked about retiring there one day. We both grew up in the snowy Virginia mountains, and we both love and miss the snow. I can’t imagine I would ever get sick of it. I know people living in snowy places would disagree with me, and maybe you are right, but I do truly love cold and snowy weather.

Alaska is like another character in the book, a beautiful antagonist that throws all kinds of perilous weather and wild animals at Maddie and Logan. Not only are they captured by a Russian terrorist; they also have to deal with frigid temperatures, the threat of wolves and bears, sleet hitting their faces, hunger, and walking miles in treacherous snow- and ice-covered wilderness. Love it!

I loved both Maddie and Logan, but Maddie was the best. You come to realize that Maddie is maybe the smartest, most-resourceful person who ever lived. She’s like a teenage MacGyver! She’s funny and cool and excellent in a crisis situation. She is so mad at Logan for not writing to her for six years, but you can totally tell she loves him. I love that while there is mutual attraction and even a little kissing, they are friends first. They make a good pair, and I loved them both.

I did feel that the terrorist plot and reasons behind it were a bit weak. And that the terrorists are Russians seems very 1980s/Cold War to me. I kind of cringed when I first read that the terrorists were “Russians.” It wasn’t a huge deal–something has to drive the plot–but I wish it had been a little more modern. I could see this being domestic terrorism over failed public health policies or environmental issues more than just some random Russian man with an axe to grind.

THEMES: revenge, wilderness survival, resourcefulness, strong female character

THE BOTTOM LINE: A must for middle and high school libraries. This would make a great movie, too.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We don’t have it, but I plan to get it ASAP.

READALIKES:

RATING BREAKDOWN:

  • Overall: 5/5
  • Creativity: 5/5
  • Characters: 5/5
  • Engrossing: 5/5
  • Writing: 5/5
  • Appeal to teens: 5/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5

CONTENT:

  • Language: none
  • Sexuality: mild; light romance, a little kissing and body appreciation
  • Violence: medium; guns and knives are prevalent, terrorism, kidnapping, booby trap
  • Drugs/Alcohol: none beyond medical supplies (Ibuprofen)

MORE YA and MIDDLE GRADE SURVIVAL NOVELS ON MY PINTEREST BOARD:


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