Friday, April 4, 2014

ARC Review: The One Safe Place - Tania Unsworth

The One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth
Genre: YA, dystopian
Published on April 29, 2014
Published by Algonquin Books
Pages: 304
Read From: 3.22.14 - 3.23.14

Devin doesn't remember life before the world got hot; he has grown up farming the scorched earth with his grandfather in their remote valley. When his grandfather dies, Devin heads for the city. Once there, among the stark glass buildings, he finds scores of children, just like him, living alone on the streets. They tell him rumors of a place for abandoned children, with unlimited food and toys and the hope of finding a new family. But only the luckiest get there. 
An act of kindness earns Devin an invitation to the home, but it's soon clear that it's no paradise. As Devin investigates the intimidating administrator and the zombie-like sickness that afflicts some children, he discovers the home's horrific true mission. The only real hope is escape, but the place is as secure as a fortress.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Before I read this book, I didn’t really care for the cover. But now that I know how it connects to the story, I can appreciate how eerie and creepy it really is.

Characters: Devin is an intelligent, kindhearted, and quick-thinking kid who won’t just lie down and take what’s coming. He fights and he puts his keen observation skills to good use. Best of all, I liked that he questioned everything at The Home. Then there’s Roman, the “misunderstood tool.” I was so glad that he really was being coerced into helping The Home, because I liked him right off. He seemed intelligent and even well-intentioned. The rest of the kids I didn’t become especially attached to, but they helped flesh the world out.

The Romance: There isn’t any!

Plot: Sometime in our future, the Earth has become almost impossible to live on – water the most precious commodity one can possess. Without it, you can’t grow anything or keep any animals. And the rich are the only ones who have access to water. Devin and his grandfather are lucky enough to have a running farm that’s been in the family for generations. Due to their careful tending, it’s flourished and provides them with everything they need. But when Devin’s grandfather dies, Devin can’t run the farm on his own, so he packs up and leaves for the city. He isn’t prepared for the harsh living conditions there. Orphaned kids live on the streets, fighting for every scrap and stealing what they can. The other street kids talk of a place called The Home – a utopia for kids, where there is food and shelter and every possible toy and game that one can imagine. But when Devin is taken there, The Home is not nearly as perfect as it outwardly appears to be. The first few chapters of The One Safe Place were a little slow, and I almost stopped reading it. But as soon as Devin gets to The Home, the eeriness and intrigue and creepiness starts up – and it’s a fast read from there on out. I loved how creepy The Home was. Everything is wonderfully perfect at first. Kids are running around playing, there’s toys everywhere – including a carousel, a swimming pool, even ponies. Everyone is fed regular meals that are more like feasts, and everyone has their own room. But of course, as the Reader, you know it’s not what it seems, and we’re clued in pretty quickly by some of the kids’ odd behavior, that things are seriously wrong. What exactly is, of course, saved for the end. I confess – I figured it out pretty early on. But that didn’t lessen the story at all, because it’s a really good concept, and for once it’s done really well.

Believability: The Earth is hotter and drier than it’s ever been. But the Author never says what caused it. Global warming? A massive draught? The Earth is moving closer to the sun? She never says, and I’m glad. Why the Earth is the way it is is entirely irrelevant to the story; any explanation would have felt like eco-mentalist preaching.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. I’m actually not sure if this book is classified as Young Adult or Middle Grade. Writing-style wise, I would say Middle Grade. But intensity-wise, I would say Young Adult. Either way, the writing is good, but nothing spectacular. It fits the story.

Content: None.

Conclusion: I love escapes and I don’t like prolonged standoffs between hero and villain – especially when the villain is an adult and the hero is a kid. It usually makes the villain look silly; I mean, they’re shouting threats at a kid. Thankfully, the Author has a great escape and a standoff that isn’t too prolonged. The One Safe Place really surprised me. I wasn’t expecting it to be as creepy as it was, and it was just downright unsettling (in a good way). This has got to be my new favorite dystopian novel. It’s a dystopian world that is set on a small scale. It doesn’t involve bringing down governments. It’s a single, isolated world – an estate. I also loved how open-ended the conclusion was, I hope there’s no sequel. It doesn’t need one.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, fourteen-and-up, great for fans of dystopian novels – especially like The City of Ember and Starters.

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