Sunday, May 27, 2012

An emotional novel set in the near future

Safekeeping by Karen Hesse
Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan), September 18th, 2012

Radley has been volunteering at an orphanage in Hati, but when she hears that the President of the United States has been assassinated, she hops on the next plane back home. Phone access is spotty in Hati, so she doesn't get through to her parents before leaving. This doesn't worry Radley; her parents are always there to take care of her, to pick her up, to give her whatever she needs. But no one is at the airport. Her cell phone and credit card don't work, and she doesn't have a necessary paper work to cross state borders and head home to Vermont. So she walks, avoiding other people and the police, and scrounging for food. Radley arrives at an empty house. Fearful and starving, she decides to join the many walkers on the road and begins her journey to Canada. It isn't until she meets Celia and her dog that Radley realizes how lonely her life has become, and how much Celia needs her if she's to get to safety.

This could happen in a few months. Here, in the United States. Hesse's use of a possible future so close to the present makes her story terrifying. You don't need to see killings, or even need a main character to kill, in order for a book to be frighting. You just need a pinch of fear, a lack of food, and a few frightening things that people really go through. Hesse's photographs accompany the text and help carry the mood of the novel. Readers crazed by the dystopian frenzy will swallow this emotional, realistic, and deeply personal novel of a future that is closer than you might think.

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