Safekeeping---Grades 7 +
In Karen Hesse’s latest novel, Safekeeping , a young woman quickly grows up during a time of turmoil and chaos, giving a nod to the current dystopian society trend so popular in YA literature but going beyond to bring some deeper themes to the story. This masterfully written story, combined with lovely black and white photography, will sure garner the author more literary acclaim
Radley Parker-Hughes has been volunteering in Haiti to help in an orphanage after the recent earthquake, but she returns home to a country in the grip of an even more chaotic situation. The American Political Party has assumed power in the U.S.; the president has been assassinated and martial law prevails. Soliders with guns at the airport, travel paper requirements—is this really the New Hampshire she left just a few months ago? And where are her parents? They are usually so prompt picking up Radley at the airport, but today they are nowhere to be found. Radley decides to get home any way she can, even though she will have to cross states lines, strictly forbidden by the new government. When she does finally make it home, her parents are still not around, but the police are. They come to the house several times, looking for Radley until she decides the best course of action is to leave, maybe crossing the border to Canada since she thinks surely that’s where her parents went.
She takes off on foot for the journey, hiding at night in the woods. One day she encounters an obviously ill young girl, who is also trying to make it to Canada on foot. The two form an uneasy alliance and along with Celia’s dog, Jerry Lee, they avoid danger and slip across the border. An abandoned shack becomes home and through the kindness of strangers, the girls survive and become close. But Radley’s search for her parents continues.
Once the chaos in the US has subsided, Radley makes her way back home, only to find things never will be the same again. A journey back to Canada can’t soothe her pain, but a trip back to Haiti does. And so she comes back full circle to where the story began.
The prose is written exquisitely, almost poetically, and interspersed with the story are numerous black and white photographs taken by the author, illustrating the story. The simple beauty of the story combined with the photographs actually intensify the story lines of confusion and disorder under the new government, giving the reader a chilling feeling of reality. The reader sees, through the use of flashback memories interspersed in the storyline, how Radley’s character grows from a confused, scared teen to a confident young woman, able to handle her own life. Appealing to all types of readers, this book should fly off the shelves.