Safekeeping by Karen Hesse Review

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Title: Safekeeping
Author: Karen Hesse
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publish Date: September 18, 2012
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher

Radley just wants to get home to her parents in Vermont. While she was volunteering abroad, the American People's Party took power; the new president was assassinated; and the government cracked down on citizens. Travel restrictions are worse than ever, and when her plane finally lands in New Hampshire, Radley’s parents aren’t there.

Exhausted; her phone dead; her credit cards worthless: Radley starts walking.
Radley's life is in upheaval, to say the very least. She returns home from volunteering overseas because she's concerned for her parents' safety in the new American regime, but when she does, her family is nowhere to be found. Everything has changed while Radley was gone and, following the collapse of the American government, Radley is forced to navigate life alone. But where should she go? She has nothing. She has no one, and her only option is to just keep walking until she finds shelter. 

I didn't hear much about Safekeeping before I received it for review, and frankly, I thought it was going to be a contemporary novel based on the cover alone. However, I was pleasantly surprised upon reading the synopsis to hear that this was actually a dystopian novel. Author, Karen Hesse, has taken a new approach toward the time-tested dystopian genre. Rather than simply giving us a world ravaged by death, famine and disease, she's given us a very realistic take on what could possibly happen should our government fold in the future. Weaving a textured novel with stark contrasts and brutal simplicity, Safekeeping give us so much more than a sheltered, protected take on a broken future world.

For a while now, I've been a bit burned out on the dystopian genre in general. I felt that something that was once so promising was becoming littered with cliche love stories, unrealistic takes on future worlds and, frankly, watered down versions of what the genre was meant to be. I didn't expect much from Safekeeping because of that and partially because many, many reviews state that that is exactly what the novel did. I have to say, however, that the book pleasantly surprised me in the best possible way. Radley, as a main character, was believable. Rather than being fueled by angst and unrequited love, she was fueled by the desire to reunite with her family and regain a sense of stability. She wanders, lost and alone, until she finds Celia and her dog, Jerry Lee. The two travel together through this barren wasteland of a once-prosperous nation to find peace, safety and comfort together. I can see where a lot of the dystopian critiques come in. People are used to vivid images of blood and violence. Readers have come to expect a looming and faceless entity forcing people into ravaged submission. Safekeeping, however, wanders into a realm of silent tension. It's more thoughtful than horrible, and the lurking tension from the underbelly of the broken America simmers lightly below the surface, fueling the story along. Honestly, the devil is in the shadows of this novel, and while it might not ultimately display the dystopian nature on the surface, it's definitely there.

Personally, I found Safekeeping to be a refreshing take on the genre. It was so different though, that I can understand where the meaning and purpose might have been lost. Despite feeling a bit hurried and, at times, overly introspective, I think there is a definite beauty to this book. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I recommend it to YA audiences, especially those who enjoy fresh dystopian reads.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.


  1. Oooh, love the new look Melissa!

    I have never heard of this one before, but it sounds like a good dystopian - I'll check it out!

  2. Wow. A different take on the usual dystopian book, huh? I'm sold, Melissa! I hadn't heard of this before reading your review, but it's going on my GR tbr as it sounds like my kind of book. Brilliant review!

    PS. Love your layout. ^^

  3. Fantastic review. Based on what you've written, I'm definitely going to have to read Safekeeping soon. Personally, I was a bit apprehensive because, like you said, dystopian books are very overdone for me. But, judging by your review I'm not going to have the same issues with Safekeeeping as I have with other dystopians. Thanks for the review!

  4. I've been burned out on dystopians lately too - hence the reason I avoid them so dutifully these days. I'm glad this one worked out so well for you, though, so I think I'll have to give it a shot too. Great review, Melissa! :D

  5. I felt like I would have enjoyed this one much more had I not listened to the audio. Jenna Lamia was the narrator and I could just not stand her voice. It's too bad, because I thought it was a fresh, gentle, lovely book.


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