One of the Survivors

One of the Survivors by Susan Shaw

Joey’s mother died in a fire a little more than a year ago, so when the new fire alarm system at his school starts to go off, it makes him jumpy.  Finally, when the static combines with the alarm to garble the message from the office, Joey insists that his class has to leave the building.  But no one listens to him except for his best friend Maureen.  They are the only two in their class to survive the fire.  Now Joey and Maureen are being accused of setting the fire by those who lost family members.  Joey begins a journal to try to get some of the images out of his head, hoping that he can start to heal himself even as he struggles with the grief of an entire community.

Shaw, author of The Boy from the Basement, writes spare, electric prose.  She has an ability to take an overwhelming subject and tame it enough for readers to truly understand the emotional wreckage left behind.  Joey and Maureen seem younger than high schoolers in this novel, something that makes them read as even more vulnerable and damaged.   Joey is a fascinating lens to see the events through, as he battles the guilt and loneliness of being a survivor.  Joey’s story is told with honesty and great strength.

Highly recommended, this novel is a gripping and also thoughtful book about the consequences of small choices and the bravery it takes to survive them.  Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.