The One Safe Place
by Tania Unsworth
Devin has never lived in the time before the world got hot, before the earth was scorched, riverbeds ran dry, and those who controlled the water controlled the world. He grew up farming the scorched earth with his grandfather in their remote valley, seemingly unaffected by the drought, almost a paradise.
When his grandfather dies, Devin realizes he can’t tend the farm alone and heads into the city to find work. Once there, he realizes his mistake. There are scores of children, just like him, living alone on the streets. No one will help him. He’s hungry and tired. Then the rains come.
Sheltered in a big room, with dozens of other kids, Devin hears 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.
When an act of kindness earns Devin an invitation to the home, he won’t go without his new friend, a girl named Kit. Once they arrive at The Home, it soon becomes clear that this place is no paradise. As Devin investigates the intimidating administrator and the zombie-like sickness that afflicts some children, he discovers the home’s horrific true purpose. The only real hope is escape, but when the children in the home are encouraged to rat out those who misbehave, how will Devin succeed? Who can he trust?
What I liked: Devin has Synesthesia –and experiences numbers, objects, and other experiences as colors, sounds, or feelings; his five senses overlap, providing a different world view. A view that comes in very handy. This is an interesting aspect to his character. He is also very good with numbers, which comes into play at the end of the story.
The whole story had a well-paced darkness throughout, without playing too much into traditional dystopian stereotypes. The tension was believable, and the science behind how one consciousness was transferred to someone else’s body wasn’t delved into, rather it just was—so I didn’t have to strain credibility.
I got chills in all the right places. Throughout the story, I had that wonderful, dreadful feeling of waiting for the floor to drop. I enjoyed the suspense. I also enjoyed the forgiveness that the kids showed one another throughout the story, even when certain characters did horrible acts, they did something to redeem themselves. The spirit of banding together, especially during times of hardship, is nice to see. (Even if it is typical of dystopian fiction.)
What I didn’t like:
Not all aspects of the narrative were explained. I realize that the perspective is limited, and that this novel is intended for middle grade readers, this makes sense.
However, I also felt that Devin’s Synesthesia was portrayed a little stereotypically, and used too conveniently for my taste; as nice as it was to see a strong main character with the disorder.
That being said, pick this up. It was an interesting read for sure. One to keep you guessing.