Most books on an Advanced Placement level reading list address internal conflicts or often abstract and ambiguous themes, however Piers Paul Read’s Alive can be easily understood by any audience. I began Alive with high expectations because of its reputation, and those expectations were surpassed. Alive is rightly a number one best seller, and has properly been labeled, “A classic in the literature of survival” (Clemons). Alive also won a Thomas More medal and was adapted into the film, Alive: The Miracle of the Andes. Alive is a nonfiction read that documents the struggles, hardships, and distress that the survivors of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 encounter in their seventy day entrapment in the Andes. The dialogue and just plain harsh reality of this survival, makes this book unprecedented. Read engages readers in a common relatable theme: the struggle of life against death.
A successful amateur rugby team, The Old Christians, leave their hometown of Montevideo, Uruguay for an annual match in Chile. Many relatives, friends, and a few fans join the team for their flight. Spirits are high as the plane leaves the ground in Uruguay. As the military plane edges over the snow-covered jagged mountain peaks, bad weather causes a devastating crash. The plane is sent careening down a mountain as the tail and passengers are torn from the fuselage. The wreck, however, maroons a number of survivors, whose fight for life gets more difficult each cramped, cold, and agonizing day.
Rescue is clearly not a fast operation as long days turn into weeks for those who survive. As the food supply diminishes, and the freezing nights in a broken plane continue to take casualties, the team as well as their friends and family are forced to make many tough decisions. Only because of their fellow companions are the survivors able to remain alive as each person contributes to the group’s survival, whether those people are living or dead. Stranded in a snow field, surrounded by mountains, the survivors struggle makes for a gut-wrenching real life story in which any audience can relate. Alive also displays how far a human will go to survive. This story has received mixed reviews and is sure to leave the reader with a strong opinion. I have since recommend this read to others, and encourage whoever is reading this review to get their hands on one of the five million copies.
--by Lyon Kopsack