The Survival Game

The Survival Game by Nicky Singer

Imagine a world …

Where there are too many people on a too-hot earth and your only chance of salvation is to journey north.

Where you must prove yourself worthy of existence at every turn, at every checkpoint.

Where your instincts become your most powerful weapon – even more than the gun in your pocket.

Where you find out what it takes to survive.


Nimrod, Downlands Community School

26th January 2020 at 12:39 pm

This book was absolutely fabulous. The extremely unpredictable nature of the story showed a true uniqueness, and made it both gripping and fascinating. The metaphor of Castle was, I thought, superb. It added an element of a mental battle, and although many people with whom I talked didn’t fully understand it, it truly resonated with me and made it an important part of the story. The ending was astoundingly touching, and I don’t think it could have finished better. A beautifully written story addressing modern issues like climate change, personal ones such as mental health and friendship, and physical ones such as the perilous and yet necessary journey many people take every day, and will have to in the future. A beautiful story, and I think the award would do it justice.

Amelia, Benenden

23rd January 2020 at 11:06 am

I found this book really heart-warming, especially at the beginning with the little boy and his grandparent. I loved how the girl expressed her fear with anger instead. It was overall a really nice book, and the front cover was very good.

Rosie, Dorothy Stringer

14th January 2020 at 1:10 pm

This is a beautifully written book, full of powerful imagery and interesting metaphors. It is written in an almost abstract way, with lots of lists, but this works well because they fit the mindset of the protagonist and her desperation to survive. This desperation is one of the main points of the novel; Mhairi is learning how far she will go, as well as how far others will. I think the author makes the reader wonder what they would do to live- this book gets under your skin and really makes you think.
The characters are all well written, so that the reader feels a connection to them and wants them to safely reach their goals. This makes the ending much more emotional. The boy is written so you feel a lot of empathy for him.
The story is very relevant, and I think it helps to make the reader really understand the struggles that refugees face. Mhairi challenges the idea of borders throughout the novel, and when the reader sees them from her and the boy’s point of view, they can’t help but understand.
Above all, to me this book was about humanity, and how people, including Mhairi, had lost it. But Mhairi’s journey with the boy taught her to emphasise and see other people again, so that she could recognise the injustice on her island.
This book is difficult to read at points because of how raw and real it is, but it tells an important story.

Alfie, Ardingly

9th January 2020 at 9:33 am

I would recommend this book to mostly everyone above the age of twelve. This is because I find there are quite gruesome parts and some people might feel stressed. This was a great story with highs and lows, a few tears rolled out of my eyes. 4.5/5 amazing shiny stars.

Rory, Ardingly

8th December 2019 at 8:58 pm

I really like this book as it shows the struggles many real life refugees face every day. It really reaches out to me discovering the relationships between characters, especially the way Mhairi cares for the boy (Mo) throughout their journey. I liked the way the book began and how the journey is portrayed for the reader really allowing us to feel as if we are in the book, going along on their journey with the,

Jack, Ardingly

8th December 2019 at 8:55 pm

The Survival Game is a dystopian fantasy book set around 2050. It involves a girl called Mhairi who must do dome intense travelling across the world – it isn’t her choice, she must just leave. She doesn’t just have to travel alone, she brings along a little boy called Mo, and he is a struggle. Not only is there war in real life, there is a war in the back of her mind. This is an amazing book which I highly recommend to everyone because it is showing what could happen with climate change. We must stop climate change!!

Kai, Ardingly

8th December 2019 at 8:52 pm

I think this book is a great capture of today’s environmental issues in a creative way. The story is about how a young girl moves up north to escape the deadly heat, but it’s not as easy as it sounds; on her journey she comes across many obstacles such as losing a great friend of hers. I think the book is great as it is a great ride but also has global warming twisted into it to warn people of what it could do to our planet in the future.

Annabelle, Ardingly

8th December 2019 at 8:29 pm

Personally I was not a huge fan of this book as it was rather daunting. It really showed what could happen due to climate change and is definitely the book to raise awareness of this subject.
Although overall not my favourite I enjoyed the way that Mhairi was portrayed. She was a strong character and throughout the book we could see that she secretly cared about others. Overall I would say that it is a good book to get stuck into.

Elise, Dorothy Stringer

3rd December 2019 at 12:31 pm

I loved this book so much. The character Mhairi was so real with all her thoughts and worries and even though she has misgivings she decides to help the boy. What I loved about this was the fact that sometimes it was like she didnt care but she obviously did so deeply and this was so true. I also was very intriged by the idea of castle.
Was it real or just mental?
This is currently my favourite of the Southern School Book Awards shortlist.
4 out of 5 stars


21st November 2019 at 7:55 pm

This book contains everything you would like to find out or see. Family, friends, strangers or even enemies, who can you trust? You need to grow up gradually by yourself. No one will wait for you. In this cruel and messy world, and you ready to accept this challenge? You will feel a bit confused about every word. Is it true or false? At some emergency moment, you need to face some difficulties, and make your own choice. A gun and paper begin the whole journey, a gun and paper make the ending as well. Adventure, competition and domestic affection, you will find at least one thing you like finally. In such a brutal world, the real personality of people is shown completely. A girl and a younger boy, sister and brother, the favourite and a naive boy. Who will survive? Everything is waiting for you to find out. Pick up this book and read it. It will affect your emotions all the time.

Mia, Ardingly

20th November 2019 at 9:00 am

Book Review On ‘The Survival Game’ By Nicky Singer
I think that ‘The Survival Game’ is a heart pumping and exciting, psycological read. The book really makes you think about the future and what little time we have to change it before the fiction becomes reality. I enjoyed the character Mo, the silent, young boy, as I felt it was a metaphor for how many of us feel when we try to talk to the government or any important political figures about climate change and global warming. I liked that Mhairi’s age was the same as mine, 14, so I could compare my life to hers and what the children of my generation may have to go through in the future. I felt like having the age of the main character the same as the people reading it made us want to change the future even more than we did so before reading the book. Overall, I loved the book and would recommend it to anyone of any age.

Ysobel, Ardingly

20th November 2019 at 9:00 am

Book Review On ‘The Survival Game’ By Nicky Singer

The book ‘The Survival Game’ written by Nicky Singer was a good book, but it is not my preferred type of genre. I enjoyed how the author managed to convey the characters using carefully chosen words and sentences, and how they progressed through the book. I think the book is very relevant to topics nowadays as it deals with climate change and what our world could look like if we don’t do anything to prevent it. I just found the book difficult to get immersed in and that it was a bit too slow for me so I ended up finding it slightly boring.
It followed fourteen-year-old Mhairi who is trying to get to Scotland and on the way she meets a mute boy who she refers to later on as Mo. For most of the book nothing very exciting happens but towards the end it begins to pick up and I found myself getting more interested in it.

Overall, this book was not really for me but I can see how many people would enjoy it. It was a bit too different to what I usually read, but I recommend it if you are interested in dystopian books or climate change and what could happen in the future if we didn’t do anything about climate change.

Ted, Hurst

20th November 2019 at 8:53 am

The Survival Game: This book has a very sad ending that really gave me a really reflective mood.

George, Hurst

20th November 2019 at 8:53 am

The Survival Game: I really enjoyed this book. It was very gripping and I often didn’t know how they would escape. However more backstory on the boy could have been written, and there could have been a few more plot twists!

Meghann, SRWA

19th November 2019 at 1:14 pm

I really liked this book as it was really realistic and it focuses on important issues such as climate change. The characters were likeable.

Alex, SRWA

19th November 2019 at 12:54 pm

This was a very good book, with an incredible philosophical premise. Though, I did not like the ending at all it didn’t really come up to par with the rest of the book for me.


11th November 2019 at 9:11 am

This book was very good. It was interesting but the ending to me was rather unfinished because I wanted to know what happens to the character at the end after the event. However, this book would make a good film. I would totally recommend this book

Sophie, Ardingly

7th November 2019 at 5:39 pm

Nicky Singer’s The Survival Game follows the life of the protagonist, Mhairi Anne Bain. She lives in a world controlled by checkpoints and borders, and papers and guns. Set far in the future, Singer uses literary techniques to involve the reader in Mhairi’s life, and shows perhaps a lack of faith in humanity. Her story begins describing Mhairi meeting a mute boy, travelling only with his sucking stone, and his dying companion, and names him Mohammed. As the story progresses, we see Mhairi grow into an independent and defiant young woman, as she still cares for Mohammed. Eventually, she reaches her grandmother in Scotland, but it is only a shell of what it once was. her Grandmother is very influential, and assures that Mhairi and herself stick to the laws, despite the fact that Mhairi has already broken them. In conclusion, The Survival Game is a well thought out and intellectually acute novel that shows what could happen to our beloved world if we continue down the ruthless pathway of climate change.

Madeleine, Ardingly

7th November 2019 at 5:33 pm

I thought The Survival Game was a very interesting story. There were many ups and many downs within the story in Mhairi’s life. She set out to do her journey alone but ended up with a life long friend. Or what would’ve been a life long friend. It is very interesting to follow along Mhairi’s life. Her quest is very long and hard on her. The unpredictable weather, the value of supplies and water and being stopped at the borders. The journey almost completely changes her personality. She becomes tougher and more independent, less caring. This is because she has lost everyone she cared about, her parents and her best friend. But her past self is cracked open again by Mo, her travelling partner. We see a more sensitive side to her. She becomes very protective of Mo and will lie to authority to stay with him. We can see this from both of the characters, how close they have become over the days.

Thomas, Ardingly

23rd October 2019 at 11:32 am

I really enjoyed this book and I would recommend it to others. I like this dystopian theme because it isn’t fiction and it is not too far into the future. I have not read many books since I learnt to read in Primary school and this has been a book I have read. The name of the book shows that climate change is going to dramatically change the world and form it into something nobody wants. It’s actually a good way to get people’s attention about this.

Hannah, Ardingly

23rd October 2019 at 11:29 am

I really enjoyed ‘the Survival Game’ and would definitely recommend it to other children of my age and even adults. I think that the book has a really good message of kindness and how caring actions are really important. additionally, the book highlights the future dangers of global warming and climate change and it makes people more aware of what our future could look like. Also, the survival Game opened my eyes to how serious climate change really is at the moment. The book is thrilling and exciting, whilst also educating me and others about how our world could be completely changed for ever and we must act now. The main character, Mhairi, is about my age and this made the story more relatable, this meant I could put myself in her shoes and this made the book seem even more real. Overall, I really loved the book and learnt a lot from reading it.

Adam, Ardlingly

23rd October 2019 at 11:24 am

I think ‘The Survival Game’ is quite a good book because of the short chapters and I really lie the idea of the mental block of the castle. I also like the fact that even though it is fiction it is still not at all unrealistic and could easily happen. I would recommend the book to all 14-17 year olds who can act on climate change.

Kenny, Ardingly

23rd October 2019 at 11:22 am

This book was very interesting as the author wrote about how the world is going to look in about 30 years if no one does anything about climate change. The book is also very interesting showing how there are new laws made because of the extreme heat in some countries, because of climate change. \the main character’s personality was also unique, how she almost left the little boy at first, but she changed a lot throughout the book. Overall I enjoyed the book and hope to read another one by Nicky Singer.

Theo, Ardingly

23rd October 2019 at 11:19 am

4/10: A frustrating story of a stubborn contrivance, with a main character who causes all her problems and a very passive secondary character, who does little more than look cute and gather the sympathy of the main character. The sensible character, the grandmother, is framed as antagonistic. It doesn’t do much technologically with it being set in the future, but what really brings the story down is the tired, overdone message that teenagers need to be always thinking about climate change, as though it will magically disappear if you constantly scream in the ears of people who really don’t have influence over the outcome of the world; the reason it isn’t working is because they’re screaming loud enough.


23rd October 2019 at 11:15 am

I thought the book was interesting because it reflected on the issues of global warming and climate change. The author makes characters seem human because the main character, Mhairi, shows a lot of guilt to killing people and I can relate to that. The book also gives a clear image in the reader’s head as to what it would be like living in the future where everyone is fighting. It can make the reader really worry about climate change and make them want to do something to make a change.

Monty, Ardingly

23rd October 2019 at 11:12 am

The Survival Game is a book about how climate change will eventually affect our planet. I liked this book because it showed how one person so narrow minded can alter their behaviour to aid those around them. \I didn’t like it because of the plotline of taking the needle/gun aged 75 because it is an unrealistic theory and too dark minded to appeal to me. But overall I enjoyed it as the plot was very exciting.

Polly, Ardingly

23rd October 2019 at 11:09 am

The Survival Game is a book that is based in the future, when climate change has made most of the world into a desert and one girl is struggling to find her way home. I really like this book, as I find that even though pages and chapters were very short and not so complex, it still managed to create the very in-depth characters of Mhairi and ‘The Boy’ through short, suspenseful sentences and carefully chosen (yet simple) words. As well as this I find it interesting and extremely relevant with the topic being climate change which leads onto dystopian madness and the fight to survive. At this day and age this topic is becoming increasingly more realistic and makes the reader connect with the story even more. finally, I think that Nicky Singer managed to convey a really strong character of ‘The Boy’ without even giving him a proper name. I recommend this book as it mixes topics like kindness and future impending disaster which creates a very interesting and heart-warming read.

Cassian, Ardingly

23rd October 2019 at 11:03 am

This book was very easy to read and enjoy. It had an interesting story that convinced me to read more and more. It played with some interesting concepts that really made you think. the way it was written rally made you believe that you were part of the book, on the journey with Mhairi.

Emily, Ardingly

23rd October 2019 at 11:01 am

U thought the book was extremely interesting as it was about problems we could face today. I would highly recommend this book as an eye-opener; I had never thought about climate change like that before. I loved the relationship the girl had with the little boy, it emphasises the girl way more.


22nd October 2019 at 12:24 pm

I liked this book, the descriptions were captivating and the story line was great, however I did find it hard to pay attention to the book because a lot of things happened and they were quite long. The best part was the detention centre, it really picqued my interest and that made me enjoy the book more. I also loved the ending. Overall, a good book to read!

Ayla D’Agnello Damai

19th October 2019 at 10:39 pm

The survival game what a great book . Imagine a life like Mhairi’s always on the run for safety It’s a story about a young girl who recently lost her parents trying to make her way to Scotland the home of her birth . Along the way meeting boy named Mo who becomes her must have companion on her journey. A must read bittersweet story full of never ending adventure .

Tiffany, Lancing College

19th October 2019 at 8:44 am

It’s such a great book with an amazing message behind it. I haven’t read a good that good in months, so I really recommend it to everyone.

The story is about a 14 years old girl called Mhairi Bain. She is travelling with this mute boy, that she ends up giving her life up for.

She is trying to travel all the way to the Isla of Arran, where her grandmother lives. She has got nothing but a gun with no bullets, and her identity papers. The border are protected by soldiers with machine guns, and her identity paper means everything.

The author describes everything as if you were there with her. Mhairi has travelled huge distances: her survival tactics reflect her desperate need to stay alive.

Mhairi Bain feels responsible for taking care of this mute boy, who she later named Mo. This is because she has failed to keep her parents driver’s son, Mohammed, alive. But also because no matter how fast she walks. It also seems like Mo is like a magician, and manages to catch up.

This book also talks about Mhairi’s many experiences and choices. There’s not too much action happening, but it also shows hope. It’s like showing you a possible future of our Planet. (Climate Change)

The story’s setting is mostly very dark and sad. There’s very little humour in the story, and is quite serious.

Overall, you might think that this book is unrelatable. Since, we are not travelling across borders etc. But I think that there are still points in the story where it’s similar to something that I’ve experienced.

Eve, Ardingly

11th October 2019 at 9:19 am

The Survival Game- Nicky Singer

The Survival Game is a very topical book about what the world could come to if we don’t do something about our current climate change issue. I would say that I did like the book because the main character; Mhairi is very relatable and the fact that she is our age makes you wonder if you could live in a world where everyone is fighting and you can not get back to your home country. I also liked the book because it was very worrying to think that in twenty/thirty years’ time, if we keep going the way we are going and making our planet worse, then we could all be fighting for our lives every day. I would highly recommend this book.

Lisa, Ardingly

11th October 2019 at 9:17 am

I really enjoyed the Survival Game because it is a realistic situation, we could find ourselves in in a couple of years. Nicky Singer perfectly captures the likely dilemmas we will be facing as climate change progresses, and refugees will not just be fleeing but there will be aggressive weather conditions. I thought that the characters had excellent descriptions. I would really recommend this book.

Sophie, Ardingly

11th October 2019 at 9:01 am

In my opinion The Survival Game, was a good book. This is because I found it very relatable to our own world in the fact that we are headed toward the same climate change issues and problems that they were faced with in the book. It also includes details of which would only come about by over population (when you ‘take the needle’ )- which is yet another refence to our global problems today. In a descriptive point of view, I felt the book was good at creating an atmosphere of isolation and despair, which were also conveyed through Mhari’s young perspective. Also Mhari’s character made me feel sympathetic to children across the world that experience death, migration or any other modern problem. Overall, I was impressed with book’s directness in getting the consequence of the issues that we face in the 21st century. It made me think more carefully about my actions (carbon footprint etc) and I would strongly recommend this book to others who feel the same way.

Oliver, Ardingly

9th October 2019 at 7:03 pm

This is a very good and entertaining book. As the book went on it got more and more interesting, this made me more excited to carry on reading. I really like Nicky Singer’s style of writing and the pace of the book. The characters were developed well, especially Mhairi who I found was very relatable.
Its time and setting is very topical given the current situation of the world and really puts into context what children could potentially have to grow up in.
A great read for people ages 12+

Emily, Ardingly

7th October 2019 at 7:58 am

I thought this book was quite good although I felt it was a bit extreme about the climate change. I loved the characters and how they connected in different ways.

Olivia, Ardingly

29th September 2019 at 2:44 pm

A really good book. It makes you think about our future, and what will happen. I would recommend this book to environmentalists and people who like a bit of action!

Hannah, Ardingly

28th September 2019 at 9:24 am

I really enjoyed the book and thought that it was very well written, incorporating many themes, such as climate change, that are really important for us to understand and be aware of. The book opened my eyes to the tragic possibilities of the not so far away future and has quite a relatable storyline since the main character is around my age. I found the book engaging and I didn’t want to put it down. Overall, I think it is a really great book and I would strongly recommend The Survival Game to others.

Oscar, Ardingly

26th September 2019 at 8:15 pm

I love the way the book refers to Castle to give a sense of what the character is trying to hide from herself. I also think the setting of the book is very relevant to these times, as global warming is a huge factor that could affect our future and educating our generation through books is a great way to get across the fact of the amount of action we need to take.

Alice, Ardingly

26th September 2019 at 4:30 pm

I thought that this book was incredibly interesting. I was hooked on the story line the whole time! This book felt so real to me as I fear that soon our world might come to this unfortunately if we don’t change. This book made me full of different emotions. I felt sadness, anger and happiness throughout this book.I suggest that every child should read this as it is eye opening.

Laura, Ardingly College

26th September 2019 at 3:47 pm

I enjoyed the layout of this book as it was easy to dip in and out and the chapters were very short. I also thought that it was very relevant to the current time with our climate crisis. It was a very moving story as I could imagine being in that situation and that made me want to change my lifestyle to help stop this story from coming true. I found the bit about Mhairi leaving Mohammed behind very sad and it made me wonder whether or not to like Mhairi but I think the fact that she was given another chance after all of the bad things she does is a key part of the book and makes me like her a lot more. I also think it is extremely sad how a girl who was completely innocent and nice in her normal life did the things she did because of all the bad things which happened to her and it made me wonder if I or my friends had been in her shoes what we would have done.

Carrie, Ardingly

26th September 2019 at 3:42 pm

In my opinion I found the book quite interesting and vivid but some bits were a bit boring. I think the imagery it gets across to the reader are very emotional and touching. It could represent what the future could be like – which is worrying and in a way perhaps a warning. In bits of the book it gets confusing e.g. the “castle”. The first chapter or so grips the reader in because it is so harsh and scary/unpleasant. The message of the book is in some way inspirational – Be brave and independent, and be strong.

Agatha, Ardingly College

26th September 2019 at 3:36 pm

It was quite upsetting but also very interesting to read about what could potentially be our future. I’m glad that this book raises awareness and educates people on what could happen. I enjoyed seeing the progressing affection that the girl Mhairi has for the boy, Mo. The way she softens herself from the way she hardened from her earlier experiences is very nice and heart warming, although the ending broke my heart.


26th September 2019 at 3:30 pm

Even if it has a bit of weak start the overall odyssey of Mo and Marri is solid, The themes are topical and the philosophical bent doesn’t offend.

Mya, Ardingly College

26th September 2019 at 3:29 pm

I thought this book was very interesting and it really opened my eyes on what people go through when you don’t have a home. Also it really made me realise what might happen if global warming carries on.

Cassian, Ardingly College

26th September 2019 at 3:27 pm

Really good book, had some interesting concepts.


26th September 2019 at 3:25 pm

The story line was compelling, and the character development was good. Overall the book was amazing, would read again.

Thomas, Ardingly College

23rd September 2019 at 8:54 pm

I thought this book was very relevant for the future about climate change it made me really think about what could happen. I enjoyed the good description although at some points I did find it a little bit confusing but overall it was a very good book.

A student at Ardingly College

15th September 2019 at 8:23 am

I loved reading this book! The way it was written meant you could almost be there with the character and feel the shivers down your spine. It was thrilling, heart-wrenching, and terrifying. The strangest was knowing that somewhere in the near future, Mhairi’s story could soon become a reality.

Ella, Ardingly College

12th September 2019 at 10:07 pm

I really liked it and thought the message was great, I really liked the main character.

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