‘I Am Still Alive’ – Kate Alice Marshall

Jess Cooper is, depending on which if the final stories you listen to, a footnote in a much bigger story or a plucky heroine. Whichever version you plump for, you can’t ignore the fact she’s resourceful, determined and – dare I say it – a little bit lucky.

The book begins in a suitably dramatic fashion. Jess is alone, watching the remains of a cabin smouldering. She reveals her father is dead, she’s alone in the Alaskan wilderness and that there are men involved who could hurt her. Of course we have questions, but Jess controls her narrative and tells us there are two beginnings to her story – before her father died and after. With a start like that, how could you not want to know more?

When we first meet Jess in her ‘before’ narrative she’s struggling after surviving the car crash that killed her mother. She is being sent to live with the father she hasn’t seen for years, and her injuries make even walking hard. Given where she’s at, it wasn’t difficult to understand her upset at being taken to her father…in a remote cabin somewhere in the Alaskan wilderness. He’s a survivalist, and she is stuck with him.

Reading about her at this point was frustrating. She was hurting, uprooted from everything she knew and definitely a reluctant participant in this drama. The only thing she seemed to like was Bo, her father’s dog. It was interesting to see how she adapted to this situation – and it was clear she wasn’t as ill-equipped for it as many sixteen year olds might have been – but we weren’t being given any details of what happened.

Eventually, it couldn’t be put off longer and we were given the story of how Jess came to be alone. This was shocking, made me see her in quite a different light…and I think encourages you to hope she’ll take what she’s learned in the short time she had with her father to get through this.

This story won’t be to everyone’s tastes. I’m not wholly convinced she would have come out of the initial experience alive, but she did and that meant I was invested in seeing her remain alive. Some stomach churning moments but definitely a dramatic bit of escapism.