When author Jen White was 12, she and her sister and cousin were mistakenly left behind at a gas station for six hours during a family camping trip―no one had seen the girls get out of the camper. Years later, White’s first novel, Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave, begins with 12-year-old Liberty being abandoned by her father at a gas station along with her 8-year-old sister, Billie.
The sisters’ lives have been in turmoil since their mother’s recent death, and they’ve only recently been reunited with their estranged father, an uncommunicative, globetrotting wildlife photographer. Liberty is a quick-thinking, likable narrator whose first mission is to get away from the “creepy” attendant at this remote desert location. Running from one fearful situation to the next, they meet a succession of intriguing characters, including a lonely Star Wars fanatic being bullied by his older brother and a truck driver whom Liberty dubs “Tattoo Guy.” Liberty tries to navigate each dangerous situation by writing in her notebook, trying to adopt the defense tactics of various wildlife, both predators and prey. “Dad was like a shark,” she concludes, “interesting to look at from far away, but don’t get too close or you’ll be sorry.”
Survival Strategies is a page-turning adventure story about two sisters who are understandably wary to trust adults as they desperately seek safety. Although this plot occasionally has far-fetched moments, White writes in a fresh, believable voice while touching on heavy subjects such as mental illness and serious misfortune without being morose. There are many moments of humor and grace as Liberty learns vital lessons about self-reliance and trust in this compelling, sensitive tale.