09. April 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Apocalyptic, Courtney, Teen Books

Safekeeping by Karen Hesse, 304 pages, read by Courtney, on 04/03/2013

Radley is in Haiti when the American People’s Party takes control of the US government. When the president is assassinated and martial law invoked, Radley decides she needs to return home to be with her parents. She arrives in the US with only her backpack. Her parents are nowhere to be seen. The banks are closed; her debit card useless. She has no cash, no charger for her dead cell phone and no means of getting home. Radley begins to walk.
When she does finally get to her house, she finds it completely empty. There are no signs of her family anywhere, but news reports indicate massive numbers of citizens imprisoned and/or fleeing the country. Radley has no idea what happened to her parents, but hopes that they got out of the country. With this in mind, Radley begins an even longer trek to Canada. Along the way, she meets another girl traveling with her dog. The girl, Celia, is desperately sick and Radley nurses her back to health before the two move on. Over time, Radley and Celia learn more about each other’s past as they struggle to create a home for themselves in a ramshackle abandoned schoolhouse just past the border of Canada. They can’t survive in the schoolhouse forever though, even with the frequent gifts of kindness left by a local woman. Radley, tired of waiting for her parents to appear, leaves for home as soon as news arrives that indicates an end to martial law in the US. Sometimes, though, you can never really go home.
Interspersed with photos taken by the author (though presented as photos taken by Radley’s mother), this is an interesting take on a possible future. This book does not focus on the political machinations that took place, nor does it linger on the state of affairs in the rest of the world. This story is almost purely character-driven. Radley is saved mostly by the strength she learned in Haiti, living with the poorest of the poor children. Celia is an interesting character and only becomes more intriguing as her story progresses. Many of Radley’s motives are unclear, which makes the story frustrating at times. I kept wanting to know more about how the US had gotten to the state that it is in by the time Radley leaves Haiti, but since the whole martial-law thing is more a framing mechanism than anything else, world building is kept to a minimum. The writing is spare yet fluid and a few tragic turns near the end will add to the emotional weight of the book.

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