My very favorite thing about Salvation is the subject matter. As we readers know, YA fiction tends to focus on a particular type of character: white and upper middle class. Sure, there's nothing wrong with those sorts of character, but there are a lot more types of people in the world, and fiction is meant to reflect life.
In Salvation, both of the main characters, Salva and Beth are both very poor, but very bright, standing a chance to get out of their town, where most people work at the onion factory. Beth lives in a battered trailer with her mother, who struggles with alcoholism. Luckily, Beth has a trust put aside for her education, if not for anything else. Salva, however, needs to get a full ride to whatever college he attends, which should be possible since he has a good shot at being the valedictorian.
Salva, short for Salvador (and also a pun on the title), is also Mexican (and note the lack of whitewashing on the cover!). He and his friends rule the school, the most popular kids at Liberty High. Beth has had a crush on him since eighth grade, but he's never paid any attention to her before. This changes when he needs her help to pass AP English, his weakest subject. Of course, in working together, they grow feelings and it's super cute.
Their relationship comes to be very slowly, really before either one of them particularly realizes it. Salva and Beth have so many preconceived notions about one another, whether good or ill, and watching them come to appreciate one another for real is just touching. Also, they flirt with Shakespeare, which has to be the best way to flirt. Never have I liked the death scene in Romeo & Juliet more. Best of all, once they finally do get together, it's really awkward, just the way fledgling relationships are with parents and how to act at school and how to act with one another.
Towards the end, I worried things were going to a bad place plot-wise, one of melodrama and needless tears, but Anne brought things together. All of the plot threads come together to make a satisfying ending, though not an unreservedly happy one. Of all of her books, I think this one definitely has the most serious message, one that will be wonderful for teens. Salvation is all about taking action, fighting for rights, doing your best, and finding your passion.
What Left Me Wanting More:
Salvation is written in third person limited, following Salva and Beth. The book might have been more powerful in first person, because, as it is, I never was able to completely bond with the characters. I really love Salva, but Beth proves a bit trickier. Beth is a quiet character, and I think really seeing through her eyes would have been a beautiful thing, because she clearly does not see things the way that I do.
The Final Verdict:
If you're looking for YA with diversity in both race and socioeconomic status, Salvation is a delight. Populated with lifelike characters and a lovely message, I highly recommend Osterlund's latest to lovers of contemporary novels.