Review: Salvage by Alexandra Duncan

May 27, 2014 4 stars, Book Review, Science Fiction, Young Adult 23 ★★★★

Review: Salvage by Alexandra DuncanSalvage on April 1, 2014
Genres: Science fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 528
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher

Salvage is a thrilling, surprising, and thought-provoking debut novel that will appeal to fans of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, and The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood. This is literary science fiction with a feminist twist, and it explores themes of choice, agency, rebellion, and family.

Ava, a teenage girl living aboard the male-dominated, conservative deep space merchant ship Parastrata, faces betrayal, banishment, and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean.

This is a sweeping and harrowing novel about a girl who can't read or write or even withstand the forces of gravity. What choices will she make? How will she build a future on an earth ravaged by climate change?

Named by the American Booksellers Association as a Spring 2014 Indies Introduce Pick.


Tina and I decided to try an interview style review for Salvage because originally I really wanted to read it but then I don’t know what happened I just sort of lost that shiny feeling and so she decided to read it instead. Essentially I was hoping this would re-ignite my desire to read it.


TABITHA: Can you give us a really brief summary about Salvage?

TINA: Salvage begins on board a ship where the “crew” (all of the people who live aboard the ship) are members of a patriarchal society. The main character Ava, a 16 year old girl was born on board and is used to a culture where becoming a first wife is something to aspire to, endless manual labor, and illiteracy are a lucky girl’s lot in life. She has very limited social experiences with people outside the ship. She learns she is to be married off and is extremely happy when she realizes she is to be married into a crew she has had contact with before. All of her dreams are dashed however, when she makes a teenage mistake and faces the death penalty, as she becomes worthless in the eyes of her crew. One brave woman that knows a secret to Ava’s past gives up her life while smuggling her off her ship and onto a spacecraft headed for earth. Ava is alone in a completely foreign world suffering from the effects of gravity for the first time in her life. But this is just where the story begins.

TABITHA: Is there anything particular about it that made it stand out in your mind from the many other YA books you’ve read?

TINA: The biggest stand out for me was that it didn’t follow the typical young adult book format. Ava begins as a typical main character, basic love interest, rough life, things begin to look bad, then start getting better. That’s where this story starts, then… life happens, and it feels like just the kind of thing that happens in real life. Ava has to grow in order to live. She has to get over the views on life and morals that were given to her as a child and open her eyes, she has to learn what HER life is about and where she stands when it comes to morals and what she wants. After feeling worthless without her crew she learns that she is worthwhile. This predictable flat person becomes a deep character in front of your eyes. It’s a book as a mom I would encourage my teenage daughter to read. That makes it WORLDS apart from many books in the young adult genre.

TABITHA: What would you say is the main focus of this book? Romance? – am I going to swoon?

TINA: No. Not at all, but towards the end you will definitely feel warm and cozy. Ava learns the difference between that first love the idealistic love, and true love the journey to coming to love someone after knowing who and what they are. As a reader you get to see both and watch Ava grow into and adult loving relationship with someone worthy of her time.

TABITHA: If you took away the knowledge given to the readers about the age of the characters and any other indicators about the target age group do you think it would be indistinguishable from an adult SFF novel?

TINA: Yes, and no. I think the language in the book is basic and the story flows fast and simple. However the undertones and the deeper meanings in the book might be lost on the younger crowd. The look at the patriarchal society, the different cultures of space and earth, and the overcoming the views your childhood taught you, are all deeper currents found in the book. I think these topics although not outright discussed in the book definitely lead to more adult thoughts and themes.

TABITHA: There seems to be some themes or issues that are covered in this novel – can you elaborate on them and how well you thought they were delivered?

TINA: I think I summed most of those up in the last answer, sorry about that. The delivery I thought was amazing. The author didn’t come right out and have the characters sit down and discuss these deeper themes. She shows you the patriarchal society and what it means to live in it, both as the main character, a girl and as a boy. She delves into the cultures and through her character lives out situations that make the reader think.

TABITHA: Just how well were the characters developed and what kind of characters were they? Am I going to be annoyed? Sympathetic? Want to face punch someone?

TINA: I’m not going to give away everything! Ava of course is the kind of character that makes you want to yell at her as though she could hear you through the pages. “NO AVA, don’t do that!!!” But as the book progresses you start to cheer her on, “YES AVA… good thinking!” some of the characters you really do just want to punch in the face, but for the most part the book is full of real characters, some you like, some you won’t and some that will make you cry (or at least come close).

TABITHA: So let’s have it – ultimately would you read this book again and can you think of at least 3 people off the top of your head that you’d recommend it to? For me this shows whether it has a really good broad spectrum readability.

TINA: Yes, I think I will return to this book. It will be interesting on a second read to see what I missed in those deeper undercurrents. I would and have recommended this book to a couple of moms I know of teenage daughters. I would also recommend it to you Tabitha as well as some of my other girlfriends that enjoy reading. I may even recommend it to young men, although and maybe I am biased here but I think it resonates with females a bit more than males.

TABITHA: Any other closing thoughts? Snappy blurb one liners for those that like it punched home in one line.

TINA: This isn’t your typical twilight story! The author does an amazing job of keeping the reader hooked with unexpected events and desperate situations. I really loved the way the story brought about the changes in the main character; I think I relate well to her feeling too old for her years. The author does an amazing job of keeping the reader hooked with unexpected events and desperate situations. I am normally pretty good at predicting these things; I was pleasantly surprised when certain events took place. Salvaged was a very enjoyable read from the beginning to the very end. A book that is a treasure to the Young Adult Genre.

*gasp* This book was provided by the publisher! No worries though it’s an honest review and all opinions expressed are my own. Quotes are taken from an Advanced edition and may have changes in the published edition. This post might also contain affiliate links. To view my full Blog Policy, click here.


Gamer girl extraordinaire, law student, mother of twin boys and one lil girl. I can often be found taking care of my family, working on home renovation projects, reading, gaming, and all the while text warring with Tabitha.

23 Responses to “Review: Salvage by Alexandra Duncan”

  1. Cait @ Notebook Sisters

    I might need to consider reading this one now. x) All I’ve heard so far have been 2-star reviews and it’s kind of put me off. (Also the fact that it’s HUGE. I get scared of huge books so easy!) That’s cool that it didn’t follow any typical formats. Always great to read something a little “different”, eh? 😉
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    • Tina

      It is always great to find something different. Also, I read a kindle version of the book and was actually really shocked to find out just how big the book is. It reads like an average book to me. I really enjoyed it.
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  2. Aimee @ Deadly Darlings

    I personally wasn’t able to finish this one. Duncan did a great job with the writing, so it all came down to the readers’ preferences. I’m glad you managed to enjoy this much more than I did, Tina!
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    • Tina

      Like I said, I think the fact that I got to see Ava grow kept me really interested in what was in store for her. I can also really relate to the feeling older than I am bit. Bummer it wasn’t your thing but I;m glad you gave it a go.
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    • Tina

      Laughing at the bleak future for women, I agree that a lot of futuristic books are that way. This one however was more this particular culture had issues, however off the spaceship the prospects for women were much, much better. Even just on other spaceships, as members of different crews, it was really interesting how diverse the universe was.
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  3. Melliane

    what an interesting way to do a review of a book, I love that. I’m always with sci-fi when it’s too complicated but it’s nice to see that it’s an easy writing style here and that yu didn’t have any problems. thanks for your thoughts.

    • Tina

      I’m glad I could recommend it! I’ve actually taken a few cultural anthropology classes and I found this book fascinating. I love that in fiction we can explore cultural norms that are considered taboo by today’s standards.
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    • Tina

      Romance is definitely not the focus in the whole scheme of things! I have a feeling some people may have only read the first couple of chapters and were turned off. Got to stick it out through those. They aren’t poorly written or anything terrible they really are just setting the scene and letting you get to know where the main character is coming from. Thanks for your comment!!!
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  4. Kel

    Hmm…sounds like the main character might frustrate me a little until she grows and starts making smarter decisions. I’m horrible about movies and books where I have to watch a train wreck coming when anyone can see the same (and thus should be making better decisions). Still, it does sound different from the usual YA. Nice interview! 🙂
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  5. Tina

    I think with this one as long as you view the situation through the character’s eyes you will be okay. Ava does some silly things but, with how she was raised and with her hopes and dreams all of her decisions are at least logical. Although, be warned the beginning is very YA.
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  6. Kirsty-Marie

    I, unfortunately couldn’t get past the first 15%, I did hear it get’s better (and it does look like it does) but I guess I wasn’t in the mood for it, and it did quite annoy me (especially Ava and that stupid mistake, because I thought that was very fast, okay, I know they’d met before and whatever, but still) But, I’ll have to have second try later on and see how that goes. Glad you enjoyed it better than me Tina, and great review style ladies!
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    • Tina

      Thanks. I agree that the first mistake was really really annoying but, I wrote it off as YA and was glad it wasn’t glorified. I felt the author was a bit rushed to get to the real story so I looking back on it am okay with the situation. Bummer that you didn’t enjoy it. I also have to be in the right mood for certain books for sure. Thank you for the comment!
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