Summary: 17 year-old Fern reacts to her mother’s sudden death by trying to take control of her life. Remembering something her fourth grade teacher said about being able to save a million dollars in about fifteen years by cutting out major expenses like rent and food, Fern attempts to do just that. She takes a job as a janitor in apartment building for free rent and utilities, and finds other jobs to help her out with food and making money. Fern pours out her heart about her experiences in letters to an imaginary, alien friend named Xanoth, wishing that her world could be more like the perfect planet she has invented for him.
Number of Pages: 214
Age Range: 15-17
Review: A subtle but compelling read, The Saver by Edeet Ravel gives readers a unique view into Fern’s perspective through letters to her imaginary friend, Xanoth, an alien from a utopian world.
After Fern’s mother dies at the beginning of the book, Fern is left to confront her guilt over her last words to her mother, and the way she treated her. Craving certainty and security on an unconscious level, Fern latches on to a comment her fourth grade teacher made about becoming a millionaire in fifteen years. Life with her mother was full of financial uncertainty as Fern’s mother worked as a house cleaner and was continually plagued by migraines, and somehow Fern believes a million dollars is going to make everything right again.
Fern proves herself to be an extremely resourceful character, lying about her age to gain freedom and work, and finding ways to provide for all of her basic needs without spending money. It all seems to be going well until Fern runs into some challenging tenants at the apartment building where she is the janitor and has trouble keeping up the punishing pace she has set for herself.
It’s a deceptively simple book. Ravel takes her reader on journey through Fern’s grieving process, but it is only very near the end that Fern realises her own motivations. I loved how she comes to know she and her mother really loved each other, even though it wasn’t something they said. Fern grows from a sulky teen into a more confident young woman, willing to put her trust in others once again.
Due to some mature themes, I’d recommend The Saver to mid to older teen readers.
“While he was upstairs I said, ‘I hate that Mom had to work there.’
Linden said, ‘If the world was made up of people like Felicity there wouldn’t be war or starvation or pollution.’
I said it was only because she was scared of everyone, but Linden said, ‘No, she was a nice person. Lots of people are scared and it makes them nasty, not nice.'” – conversation between Fern and Linden from The Saver by Edeet Ravel, page 209
“The whole dinner already seems like a dream.
I thought Linden and sisters had a perfect life, but they don’t. They’re all messed up about being rich and about the future.
I guess no one has a perfect life. But the opposite of perfect – that happens all the time. It’s the easiest thing in the world to lose everything. Your home, your job, everything.” – Fern from The Saver by Edeet Ravel, page 212
“What Victor doesn’t realise is that you have to trust someone and be close to them to complain. You have to trust that they’ll still like you. Or that they won’t fall apart or begin talking about the right path. Maybe Mom knew I complained to her because I knew it wouldn’t change how she felt about me. She didn’t say ‘I love you,’ but that’s because of her shyness.
Jack’s right. Everything she did was to set up a life for me. And if she loved me without saying it, I think she knew I loved her, even though I didn’t say it either.” – Fern from The Saver by Edeet Ravel, page 214