The One Safe Place

304p. Algonquin. Apr. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781616203290.
RedReviewStarGr 5–8—Twelve-year-old Devin's loss of his grandfather leaves him unprepared to take care of their formerly self-sufficient farm—one of the precious few left on the face of the earth. He leaves this oasis hoping to find some willing hands to help him keep the farm going. Instead, the people he meets in the city are so devoid of morals or compassion that when Devin and his new friend, Kit, have a chance to go to the Gabriel H. Penn Home for Childhood, they seize the opportunity. It isn't long before Devin senses that this home is a little too good to be true. Though surrounded by amusements, beautiful grounds, and plenty of food, the other children are morose, nervous, and listless. Occasionally Devin runs across a child acting in a bizarre, disoriented fashion, yet he is advised by the other children to completely ignore these episodes and never mention them again. The Administrator of this institution interviews Devin and informs him that he is gifted in ways he never understood. His five senses overlap—for instance, visually perceived objects have accompanying sounds only Devin can hear. The Administrator closes the interview with the sinister words, "I'm saving you for something special". This book is reminiscent of Clive Barker's The Thief of Always(HarperCollins, 1992). The suspense and dread build as the mystery gradually unfolds, but it stops short of becoming truly horrific. The conclusion is fast-paced and gripping. An original dystopian story for middle-grade readers.—Kathy Cherniavsky, Ridgefield Library, CT
Orphaned twelve-year-old Devin is invited to live at the paradisaical Home for Childhood, but something terrifying is happening to the children there. Devin's synesthesia, which makes him interesting to the Home's sinister Administrator, may provide the key to their escape. Set in a world of post–climate change desperation, Unsworth's story thoughtfully explores the theme of adults' nostalgia for childhood.

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