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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Review: Safekeeping by Karen Hesse

Karen Hesse’s new novel Safekeeping is called “a novel of tomorrow” and the future is bleak. Hesse imagines a world in which the suspicion and distrust roiling in the United States today boils over into a chaotic state of martial law and suppression. Her novel follows a young girl making her way to safety as she traverses this new world.

Radley Parker-Hughes has travelled to Haiti to volunteer in an orphanage in a disaster ridden area. Shortly after her arrival the president of the United States is assassinated. After days of worry and no communication with her parents, she makes it home to Vermont only to find that her parents are not there waiting for her. Radley quickly realizes that staying alone in her own home is no longer safe, as the government has authorized roving bands of looters as their muscle in a battle to terrify and subdue the populous. Radley makes the decision to head north to Canada so that she may live there in exile until peace and normalcy are restored and she can reach her parents.

Radley’s story is told in very short chapters, each with its own photograph to illustrate the bleakness that has become her life. The story is a sad one, but ultimately it is full of hope and will give its teenage audience plenty to think about. Even young people, who often tend to not be very politically aware, are feeling the dissent and divisiveness currently manifest in our nation. Books like Hesse’s can provide a way to work through those feelings and help the youth decide where they stand. This is an important type of story to tell in a disheartening time in the history of our nation. The ultimate message of Safekeeping is one that bears repeating: we need only to be good to one another and understanding, happiness, and prosperity will come.

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