The Survival Kit

The Survival Kit

4.9 18
by Donna Freitas

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When Rose's mom dies, she leaves behind a brown paper bag labeled Rose's Survival Kit. Inside the bag, Rose finds an iPod, with a to-be-determined playlist; a picture of peonies, for growing; a crystal heart, for loving; a paper star, for making a wish; and a paper kite, for letting go.

As Rose ponders the meaning of each item, she finds herself returning

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When Rose's mom dies, she leaves behind a brown paper bag labeled Rose's Survival Kit. Inside the bag, Rose finds an iPod, with a to-be-determined playlist; a picture of peonies, for growing; a crystal heart, for loving; a paper star, for making a wish; and a paper kite, for letting go.

As Rose ponders the meaning of each item, she finds herself returning again and again to an unexpected source of comfort. Will is her family's gardener, the school hockey star, and the only person who really understands what she's going through. Can loss lead to love?

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Rose's mother died in June, and now, as she starts her junior year, she wonders how she will get through each day. She can't bear to listen to music, she's dropped out of cheerleading, and watching her boyfriend on the football field brings back only sad memories. Her father has turned to alcohol, and her brother is away at college. Still, she does have her best friend, Krupa, the encouragement of her friends from cheerleading, and the seemingly unremarkable, yet poignant treasures left by her mother in Rose's Survival Kit. This story takes some familiar turns: Rose's boyfriend won't or can't wait for her to grieve, the quiet boy she overlooks turns out to have still waters running deep, a relative blows into town with a lot of bluster but turns out to have a caring heart. After a winter of watching hockey, dealing with the snow, and trying to keep her father sober, romance blossoms amid the tragedy as Rose uses the tools in the Survival Kit, support from her family and friends, and the passage of time to make her way forward with a lighter heart and the sense that joy and happiness can again be a part of her life. Suggest this one to students weary of werewolves and looking for a heartfelt (though a bit predictable) story of loss and love.—Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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306 KB
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

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Read an Excerpt


The Dress Made of Night

I found it on the day of my mother's funeral, tucked in a place she knew I would look. There it was, hanging with her favorite dress, the one I'd always wanted to wear.
"Someday when you are old enough," she used to say.
Is sixteen old enough?
After the last mourners left the house, Dad, my brother, Jim, and I began arguing about Mom's stuff--What were we going to do with it? Who got what? Dad wanted to get rid of everything and I wanted it kept exactly as she left it. After the yelling and the sad, alternating silences became too much, I ran off. Suddenly, I was at my mother's closet door, grabbing the cold black metal knob, turning it and walking inside, pulling it shut behind me, hearing the hard slam as I was eclipsed by darkness. I fumbled for the string to turn on the light and when my fingers closed around the knot at the bottom, I pulled. Tears sprang to my eyes with the illumination of the bulb and a wave of dizziness passed over me, too, and I collapsed onto the footstool Mom uses--no, used--to reach the higher shelves.
That's when I thought: this is a mistake.
Everything around me smelled of her--her perfume, her shampoo, her soap. Looking up from my crouch, knees pulled tight to my chest, I saw how her clothes were just there, as if she were still here, as if at any moment she might walk in, looking for a pair of jeans or one of her teacher smocks, splashed across the front with paint splotches. My gaze fell across skirts that would never be worn again, blouses and light cotton dresses that would likely be given away, her gardening hats in a big pile on a low shelf, everything colorful and bright, like the flowers in her garden and the wild, rainbow collages on the walls of her classroom--all except for one dress.
With my hands bracing the wall for balance, I stood up and waded through the shoes on the floor, shoving everything in my way aside, until I saw it: the dress made of night, in fabric that was the darkest of blues and dotted over with a million glittering specks of gold. My mother sometimes wore it for a walk on a summer's night or to sit in the pretty wire chairs in the middle of her rose garden, where, when I was little, she would read to me under a flowered sky.
Tied to its hanger was a baby blue ribbon, done up neatly in a bow and pulled through a small, perfect circle punched into a brown paper lunch bag. Big, sloping letters in my mother's hand marched across the front in blue marker strokes: Rose's Survival Kit.
My heart began to pound. Mom made Survival Kits for so many people during her lifetime--she was famous for them,but never before had she made one for me. I lifted the dress off the bar, the Survival Kit cradled in its midnight blue layers, and carried it out of her closet and down the hall to my room as if it were a body, gently laying it across the bed.
"Mom?" I whispered, first to the floor, then to the ceiling, then through the open window to the grass and the sky and the flowers in her gardens, as if she might be anywhere. A light summer's breeze snuck up behind me and caressed my cheek and again the word Mom expanded inside me, my attention drawn back to the Survival Kit that was just sitting there, waiting. The top of the bag was creased with a flap so sharp it looked as though she'd ironed it. My fingers fumbled with the fold, the crackle of the paper loud in the silence, when suddenly I stopped. My breath caught and my body shivered, and before I even glimpsed what was inside, I gathered everything into my arms, pressing it against me, and went to my closet. Gowns for homecoming and the prom vied for room among the stacks of folded jeans and sweaters and the cheerleading jacket I'd never worn. Quickly, I shut the dress away with everything else.
I closed my eyes tight. Someday I would be ready to open my Survival Kit, but not yet. It was too soon.
"Rose? Where are you?" Dad's voice rang through the now empty house, causing me to jump, startled. I'd forgotten I wasn't alone, that my father and brother--what was left of my family--were just down the hall.
"Yeah, Dad?" I called back, taking a deep breath and trying to steady myself.
"We need you in the kitchen."
"Okay! I'll be right there!" I shouted, and did my best to shove all thoughts about the Survival Kit away from my mind.
At least for now.
Copyright © 2011 by Donna Freitas

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Meet the Author

Donna Freitas has been a professor at Boston University and at Hofstra in New York. She is currently splitting her time between Barcelona and New York and writing full time.

Donna Freitas is an author of books for both teens and adults. Her nonfiction books for adults include, most recently, Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance and Religion on America’s College Campuses (Oxford), based on a national study about the influence of sexuality and romantic relationships on the spiritual identities of America’s college students. She is also a devoted fan of the celebrated British children’s author Philip Pullman, and her book about the religious and ethical dimensions of his award-winning trilogy Killing the Imposter God: Philip Pullman’s Spiritual Imagination in His Dark Materials (Jossey-Bass/Wiley) hit the bookshelves in the middle of a major, national controversy about the release of the trilogy’s first movie installment.

Much of her writing, teaching, and lecturing centers around struggles of belonging and alienation with regard to faith, particularly among young adults and especially with regard to young women. She loves to ask Big Questions (Why are we here anyway?) and delights in discovering the many possible forums in which to dabble with the stuff of faith, religion, spirituality, and gender.

A regular contributor to The Washington Post/Newsweek’s online panel “On Faith,” the religion webzine Beliefnet, and Publishers Weekly, she has also written for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Christian Century, and School Library Journal, and she has appeared as a commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered. Her books also include Becoming a Goddess of Inner Poise: Spirituality for the Bridget Jones in All of Us and Save the Date: A Spirituality of Dating, Love, Dinner&the Divine.

Born in Rhode Island, Donna received her B.A. in philosophy and Spanish from Georgetown University and her Ph.D. in religion from Catholic University. She has been a professor at Boston University and at Hofstra in New York. She is currently splitting her time between Barcelona and New York and writing full time. Donna describes herself as an ardent feminist, a Catholic despite it all, an intense intellectual, and a fashion devotee all rolled into one.

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The Survival Kit 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can relate to this book because I love music like Rose, I love at least 4+ songs on her Playlist. I highly reccomend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
it was good! unlike most ya books i've read lately, rose isn't some badass assassin chick or anything haha. just a chill, average, yet kind girl. a good friend. and will....will's a total hottie. them and their issues make it work.
bookittyblog More than 1 year ago
After reading lots of dystopian and fantasy books my brain got a bit tired. So it was lovely to read The Survival Kit. This book broke my heart and then at the end put it together again. It was sad to read how Rose and her family were coping with the lost of Rose's mom but, the author lets us know there is always hope and things will get better someday. The reader will go on a journey with Rose where she will learn how to let go, accept and find out who she really is. I finished this book in one sitting because I couldn't put it down. I just loved the character and how smoothly the authors' writing was. Bottom line is that not many authors have the gift to write a book that touches the reader's hearts and bring to live characters so real like Donna Freitas does. Review by Bookittyblog
Amy-T More than 1 year ago
One day soon I'm going to read one too many books about grieving and cancer, and it's going to push me over the edge, guys. It seems like there have been an abundance of these books lately! But if I'm being honest, while reading so much about death and dying *is* depressing and I seriously will need to back off from it a little for my own emotional stability, I actually find these kinds of books--when they're good--to be largely the opposite: touching, thoughtful, and full of life. THE SURVIVAL KIT is exactly that. Because it takes place after the death of Rose's mom, we're not reading about the actual act of dying (as AWESOMELY done in THE PROBABILITY OF MIRACLES), but rather the lives that must continue with heavy hearts and under a cloud of sadness. Grieving with Rose and her family was certainly heartbreaking, but mostly I found it to be really special and lovely and full of life-affirming moments. Also, swoony with lots of kissing. *THUMBS UP* There were so many things to LOVE about THE SURVIVAL KIT, and I have to start with Rosey girl. She was so incredible! Her grief felt very real, and her reactions to the things in her life were believable. I kind of loved that she shut herself off and couldn't find the same joy in the things that used to make her happy. That's such a real part of grieving, and it led Rose to seek out the things SHE wanted for herself instead of what she thought other people wanted of her. <3 Rose was strong and reliable, but also broken and confused and DEVASTATED. I felt so sad for her that she was left to take care of her obviously distraught father. (Somehow, I couldn't work up any bad feelings for him. He just made me want to give him ALL THE HUGS.) As the book progresses and we get to see some glimpses of the "old" Rose, I swear my heart felt lighter. She was fun and spontaneous and humorous and AWESOME!! And so much of this new/old Rose came not only from the girl herself, but from the HEAPS of WONDERFUL people around her. Guys. I LOVED so much that there are no mean people in this book!! There's no mean girls. No tools. Not even her ex-boyfriend Chris, who honestly and truly was a great guy who was there for Rose when she needed him most. This is AMAZING!!! Her friends--especially her bff, Krupa--were FABULOUS and they deserve THE CAPS. They were supportive and patient while still pushing Rose to step out from her grief in little baby steps. And I cannot--CANNOT--talk about awesome people without stressing one of my absolute favorite YA plot devices that touches my heart and makes me stupid happy: siblings who TOTALLY LOVE EACH OTHER, particularly big brother's who melt my heart and make me squee. Rose's brother, Jim...I crushed on him. I pretended that he was older so that I could do so without feeling gross about myself (he IS legal though). He called her to see if she was ok and wished he could be home to help her (he's away at college). They said "I love you" all the time. They cried together, grieved together, and supported each other (emotionally, certainly, if not always in a literal, "I am physically present" kind of way). When they fought it was legit and upsetting, but they came out of it together. It was gorgeous. *Sigh* (I did literally just sigh out loud.) SPEAKING OF CRUSHING, Will Doniger is one of those guys who's impossible NOT to love. It's clear from the beginning that he's just as tortured and wary of being around people as Rose. But it's also obvious that he feels things deeply and intensely and is completely WONDERFUL. There's a little hiccup in there, but it's not without reason, and I was so thankful for Rose that she had this incredibly sweet, sensitive, surprising, lovable guy to help her not only come out of her grief little by little, but to also serve as the catalyst in her completion of the Survival Kit her mother left for her to find. Their relationship was slow and smoldery and adorable. I LOVED them. THE SURVIVAL KIT was touching and heartfelt. Sad, but also not. I loved the idea of the Survival Kits that Rose's mom made; it's such a nice sentiment, and I loved that it was a theme throughout this whole book. I might start making them for people myself. Seeing Rose slowly understand what each item in her Survival Kit meant was special. The people around her weren't perfect but they were all exactly the people Rose needed to help her out of the worst of her grief. This story, like so many others of its kind, shows how intertwined grief and love really are. And if the "love" is going to be anything like Will Doniger? There's little chance of that raw sadness hanging around very long. THE SURVIVAL KIT was bee-you-tee-ful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the book. Great for teens and young adults. I will admit I did cry its a very emotional book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
No you dont have a clan? No you dont want to be part of jayclan (which is now at true jay 2nd res)? Or no you wish you hadnt made this kit in the first place? Btw whats your name
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tabby got locked out and said to move to next rez
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Does it matter?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
(Ravenkit, if u dont want to rp him u dont have to. I wont let u kill him. And is lightkit alive now?) Plasmatear
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Iceheart save lightkit!!Iceheart:ok*she had herbs with her.first she gave lightkit a mixture of watermint,catmint,ang juniper she licked lightkit clean and rubs dock on her body.*eat these herbs everyday for 2 moons.