I won a copy of If We Survive through the Goodreads-Firstreads program last year and for some reason have put off reading it until now. I’m not sure why. While it wasn’t my favorite book, it is very good for what it is – a YA survival story with some light religious overtones and a dash of romance.
A group of high school students, along with one college student and their associate pastor, go on a mission trip to Central America to help rebuild a school. They complete their week there and are waiting for their ride to catch a plane back home. Revolutionaries storm the cantina where they are waiting and the group is stuck in the middle of a short-lived civil war.
If We Survive is told from Will Peterson’s POV. He is a 16-year-old who gives his observations about the group around him and the horrible things that they experience while trying to escape. Overall, his voice worked for the story but there were times when his 16-year old male voice didn’t work for me as an older female reader. I’m sure it was accurate but I did have to roll my eyes a few times. He becomes a hero throughout the novel and the author did a good job of making it real.
There are several other heroes in this small group – both male and female, which was refreshing. However, a few of the characters were annoying almost to the point of being unrealistic. Nicki, a 16-year-old, is beautiful but sweet. She’s also shallow and cries almost non-stop until the 90% point. I wanted to reach through the pages and shake her. It’s hard to imagine anyone would react in this way when they know that their crying and babbling is bringing them dangerous attention from the bad guys. When she finally does turn it around, it’s really too little, too late for the reader. Jim is the know-it-all of the group (his description, including physical characteristics, is too Sheldon Cooper-like to be a coincidence.) His naiveté surrounding the revolutionaries is maddening and, again, almost unrealistic.
4/5 stars for a book I would recommend for a teen reader looking for a fairly clean adventure/survival story with just a little romance. For parents: I wouldn’t recommend this to young readers as there is a decent amount of violence and death.