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Her life is a shadow of a life. Her future is not her own to fashion.

Her family is a tangle of secrets. She cannot read. She cannot write.

But she is Parastrata Ava, the Captain's eldest daughter, the so girl of a long-range crewe—her obligations are grave and many.

And when she makes a mistake, in a ...

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Her life is a shadow of a life. Her future is not her own to fashion.

Her family is a tangle of secrets. She cannot read. She cannot write.

But she is Parastrata Ava, the Captain's eldest daughter, the so girl of a long-range crewe—her obligations are grave and many.

And when she makes a mistake, in a fragrant orchard of lemons, the consequences are deadly.

There are some who would say, there but for the Mercies go I.

There are some who would say Parastrata Ava is just a silly earthstruck girl who got what was coming to her.

But they don't know the half of it.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Duncan makes an excellent debut with a novel that's part feminist polemic and part coming-of-age adventure. In a space-faring future, supply ship "crewes" have developed into patriarchal tribes, with strict gender roles and a mythology to justify them: "Women of the air, stay aloft," the girls of the vessel Parastrata are warned. Ava is considered to be deviant for several reasons: she is of suspect Earthly descent, and she has a knack for both math and mechanical engineering, disciplines that are forbidden to women on her ship. After further transgressing Parastrata's laws through a romantic encounter, she is cast out into the Void. With a fierce desire to survive and with the help of a female spaceship captain named Perpétue, Ava escapes space for the deadly gravity of Earth, where she eventually discovers emotional, sexual, and intellectual liberation. Duncan's thoroughly realized setting and subtle control of Ava's voice result in a powerfully immersive story that uses its far-future SF premise to thoughtfully explore gender politics. Ages 13–up. Agent: Kate Testerman, KT Literary. (Apr.)
Shelf Awareness for Readers
“Debut author Alexandra Duncan portrays a patriarchal civilization eerily reminiscent of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale….Duncan’s fast-paced narrative and original settings—from the Parastrata to the Gyre (a floating garbage mass in the Pacific) to Mumbai—will keep readers riveted.”
Stephanie Perkins
“Salvage is the book I’ve been waiting for—kick-ass, brilliant, feminist science fiction. Watch out, world. Alexandra Duncan has arrived.”
Beth Revis
“Alexandra Duncan’s debut illustrates a richly detailed world that vividly shows a possible future of Earth where society has both regressed and progressed, where the struggles of humanity have become more dire, but where love still remains. Everything—from the world to the characters—felt viscerally real. Original and memorable.”
Kiersten White
“Epic in scope and intimate in execution, Salvage is an astonishing debut. Duncan expertly crafts a story of the journey to claim oneself across the infinite expanses of both space and the human heart.”
Rae Carson
“Alexandra Duncan is a stunning new voice. Duncan’s magnificently flawed future world exposes humanity . . . in ways that are ripe for discussion. . . . Ava’s personal journey from oppression to self-actualization—by turns harrowing and heartbreaking, but ultimately triumphant—will keep readers glued to the pages. Highly recommended.”
Voya Reviews, April 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 1) - Bonnie Kunzel
Across The Universe meets A Handmaid’s Tale in this impressive debut, a riveting look at the outsider in society; coming of age under extremely repressive circumstances; the struggle to survive; the good and the bad as far as family goes; and true love, sort of. Ava, the captain’s daughter on the Parastrata, is ready to be married at age sixteen. She cannot read or write, but she taught herself how to do figures, is an excellent manager under her stepmother, and has learned how to do minor fixes around the ship. When her betrothal ceremony goes hideously awry, she is saved from being ejected into space by her grandfather’s youngest widow, who sends her off to Earth with a female ship captain. Ava has never experienced Earth’s gravity, so it is touch and go, but the ship captain pulls her through. She returns the favor by saving the captain’s eight-year-old sister from a massive storm which kills the captain. Her only hope in the aftermath is to fly to Mumbai and find her mother’s sister. There she meets a young man who helps her cope with life in the slums of Earth while providing a safe haven for the girls and their ship. This dystopian work by a welcome new voice in science fiction for teens is by turns compelling, riveting, suspenseful, and satisfying as this downtrodden young woman learns to stand up for herself and make her own choices. Reviewer: Bonnie Kunzel; Ages 15 to 18.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Seventeen-year-old Ava was born and raised aboard a spaceship, the Parastrata, but when she makes an understandable, yet regrettable, mistake, she is cast out by her patriarchal family to the unfamiliar and unforgiving Earth below. With just her aptitude for "Fixes" and her spirit for survival, the teen must navigate through the Gyre, a floating wasteland of trash in the Pacific, to ultimately end up in Mumbai, where she searches for her modrie, her blood-aunt. Duncan delivers a finely paced dystopian novel that relentlessly charges through the finer plot points, which may leave readers confused as to how Earth became a technologically advanced wasteland. Another small hiccup is the strange dialogue among the Parastrata's inhabitants, including Ava, without explanation, which may be off-putting to slow and reluctant readers. However, the strength of Ava's character carries readers through the lengthy novel. Fans of Beth Revis's Across the Universe (Penguin, 2011) and Ally Condie's Matched (Dutton, 2010) will appreciate Duncan's first dive into the genre.—Amanda C. Buschmann, Atascocita Middle School, Humble, TX
Kirkus Reviews
Haunting, colorful environments distinguish this debut novel about a girl fighting for survival in the far future. Ava lives on the Parastrata. She knows nothing beyond her polygamous, fundamentalist religion, whose followers began living in spaceships some 1,000 years ago and which holds women as property since they harbor an interest in Earth "like a soft, rotten spot in [their] souls." Informed that she's marrying a man on another ship, Ava's thrilled to see Luck, a boy she met years ago, in the greeting party. They know they should wait until after their wedding, but they sneak into a desalination pool and succumb to sex the night before—and get caught. To their shock (though not readers'), Ava was actually promised to Luck's father. The Parastrata women wash Ava and lock her in a chilled room to await her punishment: Being pushed out into open space, which is, of course, fatal. A difficult, terrifying escape and a relative's sacrifice provide another chance, but where can she go? From the strained peculiarity of the Parastrata to a sunbaked community afloat on the Pacific Ocean to the bustle of Mumbai, Duncan's settings and diction are vivid. As brown-skinned people become Ava's chosen family, she learns that her own medium-dark skin—mocked aboard the Parastrata—isn't a religious stain, marking this a welcome browning of the science-fiction universe. Ava's decisions sometimes serve plot more than characterization, but readers caught up in the story will forgive this. Memorable. (Science fiction. 14-17)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062220141
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/1/2014
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 214,605
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Alexandra Duncan grew up in a small town in North Carolina and now lives in Asheville, North Carolina, where she is a librarian. This is her first novel.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 3, 2014

    (Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a re

    (Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.)
    16-year-old Ava is the eldest daughter of the captain of the space ship on which her people live, and is a little nervous when she is told that she will soon be a bride.
    When it becomes clear that she will be wed to a member of another ship – the ¿ther, she begins to hope that she will be wed to Luck – a boy who she met a long time ago, who she has always dreamed of marrying.

    A mistake based on an assumption leads Ava to be disowned by her own father though, and if not for the help of one woman on the ship, her father would have killed her.
    Instead, alone on earth, Ava must learn to live in the higher gravity that she is not used to, and find a way to make a life for herself, without her family, and without Luck.
    Can Ava survive? What has become of Luck? And is there any hope for the future for Ava?

    I really liked the beginning of this book, but it lost its way a bit in the middle.

    Ava was at heart a girl who did what she was told, and didn’t like to question authority. When she did feel that there was something she could do, she tried to do her best to do it, whilst also trying to hide the fact that she might be going against the rules.

    The storyline in this was okay, although I did find the middle of the book to be quite slow and not as captivating as the beginning of the story. The beginning held much more intrigue and excitement, and I loved every minute of it, but the middle was quite dull in comparison, and didn’t pick up again until the 90% mark for me. While the pace was quite slow all the way through, I only found myself getting distracted during the middle part, whilst the first ~35% was un-put-down-able!

    The world building in this was very good, and we learned a lot at the beginning about the world that Ava lived in, and the traditions and expectations of her people. I really liked the part of the story that took part on the ship, and thought that this part was done really well.

    I really liked the romance in this book, and this was one of the best parts for me. I liked the emotion between Ava and Luck, and they were so sweet together. It was such a shame that they weren’t allowed to be together, and their respective father’s ideas of punishment were extremely harsh.

    The ending of this was okay, but was a little bittersweet. It was good in terms of the fact that Ava was in a very good position and was happy, and that things were looking up for her, but was slightly bitter because Ava’s actual future was very different from her childhood dreams of her future.
    Overall; an interesting sci-fi/dystopian with some really good world building.
    7 out of 10.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 9, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    I wanted to read Salvage I'll admit, the cover caught my eye.

    I wanted to read Salvage I'll admit, the cover caught my eye. Its pretty and the moon being so close to the water and the girl on the beach. I just want to know what it going on. Then I read the synopsis and saw a chance for the main character to totally stand up for women in general on the male dominated planet, and I also wanted to find out how she would fare with her escape.
    Like me and most sci-fi all of the new words, concepts and world was a little overwhelming, but by Chapter 4 I was learning what everything meant and their slightly different word usage and style. I did like the world building even if it took me a while to really understand. They are on a spaceship and it sounds like something happened on the earth but they still long for it. The structure of their ships heirarchy was maddening, but I totally understand that our society used to be similar as well. Women do not have jobs as mechanics or pilots, instead their value comes from kitchens, livestock care, laundry and most importantly having babies.
    I didn't connect right away with Ava but by chapter 3, I saw that she did have a spark to fight how things were, learning about the fixes and just the desire to learn more, since women don't learn to read or much math, she learned figuring on her own. We got to see pretty quickly what she was made of when she was set to be a bride for a ship that they hope to negotiate trade with, and she is caught in a compromising situation that broke my heart. Her brother all of the sudden won't talk to her, the Aethers, the other ship kicks her off, and she is going to be exiled.
    As for the secondary characters I liked Soli and Luck, but wondered at the beginning why so much time was built building these relationships, but then I figured that is the catalyst for her needing to escape and being on Gyre. Then after she escapes, we meet Perpetue and Miyole. They are so accepting and Miyole is a precious, intelligent little girl. It gives Ava purpose, but also Miyole a role model and someone to help her along.
    The part where they end up in Kalina and the Salts was pretty epic. The things that Ava never thought she would have to do and a strength even more than everything she'd already overcome and faced rises up in her and I really admired her and her willingness to do what needed to be done for her and Miyole. Also, how Ava discovers a kindness in strangers, really shows her that humanity can go both ways, they can do horrible things, but then also beautiful.
    I am pleased with how the romance was threaded into the book and the resolution. I can't talk much about it, just like I can't talk much about where she ends up after Gyre because I def don't want to give out spoilers, but I saw tremendous character growth in her, as well as surprising twists to the story.
    Despite the slow for me start, I ended up tearing through Salvage, connecting with Ava, loving the world set-up, as well as hoping for another book about Ava to release soon. But as I understand it is a standalone, so I think there is lots of potential with the great world building and character development that will be lost.

    Bottom Line: For me, took until Ch. 3-4 to get fully into the story then it carried me away.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 1, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    ***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** Salvage by A

    ***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***

    Salvage by Alexandra Duncan
    Publisher: Greenwillow
    Publication Date: April 1, 2014
    Rating: 4 stars
    Source: eARC from Edelweiss

    Official Summary:

    Salvage is a thrilling, surprising, and thought-provoking debut novel that will appeal to fans of Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, and The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood. This is literary science fiction with a feminist twist, and it explores themes of choice, agency, rebellion, and family. Ava, a teenage girl living aboard the male-dominated, conservative deep space merchant ship Parastrata, faces betrayal, banishment, and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean. This is a sweeping and harrowing novel about a girl who can't read or write or even withstand the forces of gravity. What choices will she make? How will she build a future on an earth ravaged by climate change? Named by the American Booksellers Association as a Spring 2014 Indies Introduce Pick.

    What I Liked:

    I honestly was not sure if I would enjoy this book for several reasons, but I am really glad that I ended up really liking it! At first, while reading the beginning, I was like, there is NO WAY this book and I are going to get along. But Duncan has constructed a really beautiful novel!

    There are several parts to this book. The first part is spent on the Parastrata, a merchant ship that flies in space. There is a society living on this ship - in fact, Ava has never NOT been on the ship. But trouble brews when she is given away as a bride, to a male on the Æther ship. She hoped it would be her childhood friend Luck (and he hoped so as well). They do something unforgivable, and everything falls apart. They are separated, and both are to die. But Ava escapes, and ends up on Earth.

    The next part deals with Ava's adjustment to Earth, away from her ship, from her lost love Luck. She is taken in by a lovely woman and her daughter (the daughter's name is Miyole). She meets a boy named Rushil. She searches for her mother's sister. She learns to read and write (poorly, but she learns somewhat). But where does she belong?

    At first, I HATED the first part, the beginning, on the ship. I hate the society on the Parastrata! It's sexist and totally debilitating for women. Women can't learn to read or write or be anything except laundresses and farmers. They are married off to the man of their father's choosing. Oh, and it's a polygamist society. No no no. So, I really did NOT like the society. I thought I would hate this book.

    BUT, that's just it: Duncan does an AMAZING job of building and creating the society on the Parastrata. It's obvious that readers are supposed to hate the sexist society (unless you're a sexist, then I suppose you'll enjoy the first part - disgusting). I even thought I hated Ava, because she has no spine or backbone or willpower. BUT, then I realized: this is just how brilliant Duncan's writing is. Ava can't see fault in her society. She can't see how women have no rights in her society. She can't understand, because she doesn't know better. Ava doesn't have that seed of rebellion that many dystopia novels feature (not that this book is a dystopia). She only comes to change her way of thinking because she is forced out of her ship, and she goes to Earth (which was literally the LAST thing she wanted to do).

    So, yeah. I loved the worldbuilding and the writing style. Duncan does a really good job of creating the world on the Parastrata, as well as life on Earth. It's polluted, dirty, garbage-filled, and there are definitely environmental themes in this book. YAY for that! And Duncan's writing style is really flowing and lovely. Sometimes it seems a little dry and boring, but it definitely fits the story.

    The story is rather long and drags a bit, because you feel like nothing is happening. However, I like the journey - it's Ava journey, her discovery of who she is as a woman, as a real person who is appreciated for her talents (and not her ability to make children). It sounds cliche to say that this book was all about a character's quest to find herself, but in this book's case, it's totally accurate. Sometimes, I can understand the excessive length, because many, many scenes are necessary, to show Ava's changing views and growth as a character.

    The romance is pretty obvious, in this book. There aren't too many males in this book, especially males around Ava's age, so when you spot this one guy, or this other one, or this other one, it's pretty obvious that he will be a potential love interest. I will say that there are two - I already mentioned Luck and Rushil. But there is NOT a love triangle in this book - not in the physical sense. The romance is important, because it shows that Ava is capable of making her own choice for herself.

    Feminism is a pretty big thing in this book. Ava comes from a very repressive society, where there aren't many males, and the males that are present have many wives and many children and all of the knowledge, strength, and power. But when Ava goes to Earth, she is shown how awful and messed-up her society is. She learns of choice and empowerment, which is really important. I like the strong presence of feminism in this book, but it's also really subtle. 

    Overall, I enjoyed the plot of this book, Ava's journey. This book is great as a standalone, so I hope it stays that way. The worldbuiling is probably the best/most well-done part of the book. I hope that if others read this book, they enjoy and appreciate the undertones and themes of the novel! 

    What I Did Not Like:

    This book is very long, and sometimes, you really FEEL the length of the book. Meaning, sometimes I felt like this book was unnecessarily long. Length usually doesn't bother me, when the book is really engrossing. AT TIMES, this book was not engrossing enough, so the length was daunting. I think Duncan could have cut this one down by maybe fifty pages (or more), honestly. 

    Otherwise, overall, I was pretty happy. Make sure you read what I said about the beginning of the book, on the ship. I HATED the society on the Parastrata, but it's that necessary evil that you hate, but at the same time, you totally appreciate it how WELL Duncan builds it and MAKES you hate it.

    Would I Recommend It:

    I would recommend this book mostly to science fiction fans. If you're looking for an amazing, heartstopping romance, try something else. If you want constant, nonstop action, try something else. If you want a heroine with a backbone from start to finish, try something else. My point is, this book is NOT for everyone (like every book, but this one definitely is not). Science fictions will appreciate this one, and fans of feminist literature. It's an excellent (debut) novel!


    4 stars. I enjoyed this book! It is truly a remarkable debut novel (though that sounds really cliche), and I'm glad I had the opportunity to read and review it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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