Thursday, October 25, 2012

Safekeeping by Karen Hesse YP FIC HESSE

Radley has come home to a country that isn’t her home anymore.  The extremist group the America’s People Party (the APP for short) has taken total control after the president was assassinated. They have established martial law and America is now a police state.  Radley is stranded with now useless credit cards, a cell phone with no charge, and no way to contact her missing parents.  When the police begin to search for her, she decides to try to make the long journey into Canada.  To make it she’ll have to live off the land, avoid gangs of marauders, evade the police and military, and sneak across the border.  Even worse she’s picked up a fellow traveler named Celia who needs Radley’s help to make it.  How can she take care of someone else when she can’t take care of herself?  Even if she makes it, is there anything left to hope for?

This book really has me split.  On one hand the writing is great, with excellent and simple prose that has a truly poetic quality and strong characters throughout.  Radley and Celia are great characters that grow and change realistically both as individuals and as friends.  I love the slow building of tension and the realistic nature of Radley’s once mundane problems becoming a matter of life and death.  They make the struggle of finding food and shelter come alive in way that is poignant and exciting, but never sensationalized.  I really like that Hesse ties Radley’s story to the people of Haiti, who Radley was volunteering with before coming back to America.  Not to be too political, but it’s nice that Hesse can point out that even in her nightmare scenario for America, there are places in the world even more dangerous and in needing of help.  Then what’s the other hand?  The background on the APP is pretty much nonexistent. We don’t really learn how they came to power, hold power, and eventually what causes them to lose power.  These details are glossed over.  It sometimes works because Radley has been away for a while and the focus is so much on her, and I’m truly glad there wasn’t loads of awkward exposition conversations, but there needs to be at least some idea of how this all happened.  Since there isn’t there is a lack of believability to the basic scenario.  Also, since Hesse doesn’t outline very well what the APP did to seize power and what they believe, some readers are going to think this is a blanket attack on conservatives.  Last but not least, I wasn’t blown away by the photographs and I wonder of the book really needs them.  All that being said, the strengths of the book are very strong and if you let yourself stop worrying about any plot holes then you will find a lot to love in Safekeeping. It isn’t as great as it could be, but it is a well written, emotional little gem.  I strongly recommend it to people that want a more thoughtful and personal type of dystopia tale.  

You can check our catalog for Safekeeping here.

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