Title: The One Safe Place
Author: Tania Unsworth
Rating: 4.5/5, rounded down
Unsworth’s dystopian story follows the life of young Devin as he abandons his grandfather’s farm after the older man’s death. Ultimately, his goal is to find help within the city since he quickly figures out that he cannot do it on his own. Exhausted, he finally reaches the city, where he is met by hundreds of other abandoned children. The city is a desolate place where people seemingly must steal, cheat, or deceive in order to have enough food to eat. Thankfully, Devin meets Kit, a cunning girl who has faced darkness in her past. She finally learns to trust him and shares some of her secrets, such as how to pick locks and the location of her stolen treasures. The two develop camaraderie despite their vastly different upbringings; for Devin, who never truly had a friend before, the value of that friendship is incredible. Therefore, when Devin is approached by a mysterious teenager named Roman and is offered an opportunity to be placed in a home for children, Devin agrees only under the condition that Kit may come along. After much hesitation, Roman agrees and brings both Kit and Devin to the mysterious Gabriel H. Penn’s Home for Childhood. Despite the lovely interior, the children within all look depressed and mysterious. Some children, on the other hand, seem to thoroughly enjoy themselves, even to the point of becoming uncanny – but none of the sad children are able to look at them. While Kit’s love for the home blossoms, Devin is hesitant to follow suit, sensing that something is odd.
I’ll start with the reason that this book didn’t get a 5/5; honestly, a lot of events in the book came off as too convenient to be really believable. I won’t get into spoilers, but there’s something about Devin that made everything too well-suited for the plot twist in the novel.
Aside from that, it was a great read. The dystopian was a very nice touch to the whole novel. There’s a recurring theme from the beginning that ties in very well with the development of the book, which I honestly appreciate. The amount of foreshadowing in this book is beautiful, really. If any teacher wants a novel with tons of foreshadowing in order to teach their students the value of a well-crafted story, then this book is definitely it! I didn’t see the ending coming, but I should have.
The characters are each well thought out, but I think that Devin could’ve had a more defined flaw. Aside from him, everyone was well-rounded with a great balance of flaws and qualities. I really liked the author’s portrayal of the “bad” characters – Unsworth did amazing work with her villains. They each had their own sets of qualities that made them good characters. Some of the children felt a tiny bit flat and forgettable, but the villains definitely make up for it!
As for the plot, it was something new and fresh. I felt uneasy for most of the book; I couldn’t wait to see what the ending would bring. The best word to describe the home is definitely “uncanny” and the feeling follows. Trust me on this: the ending doesn’t disappoint. It is a book that was very well-thought, and I would recommend it to teenagers and adults alike!
I’d like to thank Netgalley, as well as Algonquin Books, for the free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.