Mountains and Trees

About the Book

Title: I Am Still Alive
Published: 2018

Cover Story: Into the Wild
BFF Charm: Meh
Swoonworthy Scale: 0
Talky Talk: Brutal AF
Bonus Factors: Survivalism, Bo
Anti-Bonus Factor: Dan Scott Award for Awful Parenting
Relationship Status: Allies on Survivor

Trigger Warning: Guys, even knowing that this was a story about survival and things might get a little bleak, there were a couple of scenes that I had visceral reactions to. I can’t tell you anything without major spoilers, so I’ll just say this: be prepared for jolts of violence and heartbreak throughout. 

Cover Story: Into the Wild

Wow, what a mood, am I right? This cover isn’t joking around. Jess is lost, things are bleak, and happy moments are few and far between, and I think this cover reflects that perfectly.

The Deal:

Ever since the terrible car accident that killed her mother and left her with permanent damage in one leg, Jess has been living with a friend while she goes to physical therapy. But when her social worker finally manages to track down Jess’ absent father, Carl, Jess is forced to go live with a man who is little more than a stranger to her. She’s met at the Alaskan airport by one of Carl’s friends, Griff, who drives for hours, sneaks her across the Canadian border, puts her in a tiny plane (!) and flies her deep into the Yukon wilderness. Surprise, Jess, your father lives completely off the grid in a tiny one-room house he built himself and survives solely on food he either hunts or grows! Welcome to your new life!

I mean, WHAT IS A GIRL TO DO? Jess won’t be going to school, she literally doesn’t even have a phone to call her social worker, and the only person besides Carl who knows she’s even out in the Yukon is Griff, who’s already hopped into his plane and left them there. It might seem like things can’t get any worse for Jess, but just as she’s starting to form a tentative relationship with her father, tragedy strikes, and Jess’ bad situation suddenly gets a whole lot worse.

BFF Charm: Survivor

I go back and forth on Jess. Every time I thought she was being bratty, I had to remind myself that she was brought to the Canadian wilderness to live in a one-room cabin with a man she doesn’t know and has to skin rabbits if she wants dinner at night. I mean, hell, I’d probably be bratty too! Maybe its my inner adult screaming, but when this strange man sneaks you across the Canadian border, maybe that’s the time when you say ‘hold up, I’m gonna need to call my social worker before we go any further.’ And there were moments when I wanted to throw my Kindle across the room because she would do something SO stupid or irresponsible, but then, I’d have to remind myself that baby girl was starving and freezing and probably not thinking straight either. Did I just love Jess? No. But was Jess strong and persistant and a survivor and worthy of mad respect? Yes.

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

Nah, guys, it’s just her and her dog. That said, the thought of reading a book with a Swoonworthy Score of less than five is usually not my jam, but I assure you, this was one book where I didn’t miss the romance.

Talky Talk: Brutal AF

I knew from the first page that this book would suck me in and probably beat the crap out of me too. I was always a fan of survivalist stories when I was a kid, and I Am Still Alive paid homage to the classics that came before it, while still offering up a compelling, contemporary story. But Marshall is not nice to her MC, and I Am Still Alive makes other books seem like marshmallow fantasy lands in comparison to the harsh wilderness Jess is flung into. I kept thinking she *might* catch a break, and I kept being wrong. There were definitely no boring moments, and I flew through this book, but I will admit that there were a couple of plot points that bothered me. Okay, there was one plot point that REALLY bothered me. But there is absolutely no way for me to talk about it without major spoilers. C’est la vie.

Bonus Factor: Survivalism

When I was in the fourth/fifth grade I was obsessed with survivalist stories. My favorite books were Hatchet and Island of the Blue Dolphins (which, btw, looking back at the plot synopsis of that one…whew, B L E A K). Even the low-key survivalism of the first Box Car Children book was right up my alley. As a kid from the ‘burbs, nothing was more exciting than reading about the resourcefulness of other kids who were doing what they could to survive. And now, I’ll always know that if I need to keep my gallon of milk cold, I just hide it behind the waterfall!

Bonus Factor: Bo

grey wolf

The only thing that would make being stranded alone in the wilderness tolerable would be…well, not being alone. Having the best good boy, Bo, as her faithful sidekick made surviving possible for Jess, and he was a highlight of the book for me tbh.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Dan Scott Award for Awful Parenting

Evil Dan Scott from One Tree Hill

An adult choosing to live off the grid is 100% their decision, and I fully support that. But making that choice for your kid without even giving the kid (or ANYONE for that matter) a heads up is bad. It is just so irresponsible for Carl to try to raise his teen daughter in the Yukon. There were times when I couldn’t help but think, “This is child abuse, but Jess doesn’t have any way of telling her social worker that.” Past her mother dying in a car accident, everything bad that happens to Jess is totally Carl’s fault for putting her in that position to begin with.

Relationship Status: Allies on Survivor

Book, you may not be the first book I’d pluck from the shelf, but you’re definitely the person I want to form an alliance with if I’m ever on Survivor. You kept me motivated to finish, kept me on the edge of my seat, and taught me a few life-saving skills along the way. Ultimately, I enjoyed our time together, even if there were times when the camera caught me making an annoyed face behind your back.

Literary Matchmaking

Girl Underwater

Girl Underwater by Claire Kells follows college swimmer Avery and her fellow swimmer Colin, who must survive the wilderness after their red-eye flight goes down in the Colorado Rockies.

A Map for Wrecked Girls

If you like your survivalist stories with a dose of sand and sun, check out the sisters-stranded-on-a-desert-island tale, A Map For Wrecked Girls by Jessica Taylor.


Sadie by Courtney Summers may not be survivalist in the way that I Am Still Alive is, but it IS a gut-punch in book form, if that’s the sort of thing you’re in the mood for.

Bonus reading: Hatchet and Island of the Blue Dolphins and My Side of the Mountain aren’t in the FYA book review canon, but they’re absolutely worth reading if you haven’t already.

FTC Full Disclosure: I did not receive money or Girl Scout cookies of any kind (not even the gross cranberry ones) for writing this review. I Am Still Alive is available now.

Rosemary lives in Little Rock, AR with her husband and cocker spaniel. At 16, she plucked a copy of Sloppy Firsts off the "New Releases" shelf and hasn't stopped reading YA since. She is a brand designer who loves tiki drinks, her mid-century modern house, and obsessive Google mapping.