By Cynthia Bujnicki
Jess is alone. Her cabin has been burnt to the ground, and her only company is her fathers’ dog. No one knows she is out there; no one knows she is alive. However, Jess has a plan. Jess not only plans to survive, but when they come back, she plans on taking revenge.
I Am Still Alive is a survival story that begins in a non-linear fashion before transitioning to traditional linear storytelling. It follows Jess, stranded in the backwoods of Canada with winter fast approaching. She is alone, with only a dog as her companion and disabilities she must overcome.
The non-linear opening makes for an excellent entryway into the story because it gives the reader a sense of the world the character is in, while hinting at what happened without giving anything away. It allows the tension to flourish as it goes between the past and the present to establish how Jess got stranded in the unforgiving wilderness. It allows the reader to understand what the character is experiencing, how she is experiencing it while allowing the reader to get a handle on the direction of the story.
Jess is not an entirely likable character. It is easy for the reader to understand her anger considering her life has gone through profound changes (i.e., losing her mom, becoming an amputee, moving to the remote wilderness with the father she has never known). However, while understandable, the tone and narrative still do not make it easy to empathize with her. Jess’s whining and complaining fills most of the story, and her hard-headed stupid mistakes make the story irritating to read.
Thankfully there is character development, but it takes a while, making it a struggle to capture the reader’s attention, especially given the slow pace of the novel. While also a survival story, the story is a revenge story, so the reader is waiting for something to happen, making the slow pace of the novel unbearable given the character’s voice.
Ultimately, I Am Still Alive is a noteworthy novel. It does suffer from poor characterization and a slow pace, but in the end, it makes up for it. (★★★☆☆)