The One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth

Book Title: The One Safe Place

Author: Tania Unsworth

Publisher: Algonquin/ Workman

Release Date: April 2014

Number of Pages: 224

Summary (via IndieBound):

In this near-future dystopia with echoes of “The Giver” and “Among the Hidden,” Tania Unsworth has created an unsettling page-turner fast-paced, smooth, filled with dread that s wholly satisfying and startlingly original.Devin doesn t remember life before the world got hot; he has grown up farming the scorched earth with his grandfather in their remote valley. When his grandfather dies, Devin heads for the city. Once there, among the stark glass buildings, he finds scores of children, just like him, living alone on the streets. They tell him 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. An act of kindness earns Devin an invitation to the home, but it s soon clear that it s no paradise. As Devin investigates the intimidating administrator and the zombie-like sickness that afflicts some children, he discovers the home s horrific true mission. The only real hope is escape, but the place is as secure as a fortress. Fans of dystopian fiction and spine-chilling adventure will devour “The One Safe Place”; its haunting themes will resonate long after readers have turned the final page.

Source: Received Galley from Workman Rep. at Inkwood Books


“The One Safe Place” is told from a male-narrator, Devin’s, point-of-view and is set in a not-so-distant future dystopian world. Unlike most of the dystopian novels that are currently out on the shelves the conditions of this world are not post-war. Instead of a war-ravaged world the earth is now scorched due to an environmental change where the world got ‘hot’. The temperature has risen and rain and even water in general is rare. The opening of the book is both gripping and heart-breaking. Devin is digging a grave to bury his grandfather who has recently died from what appears to be natural causes. Devin tries to move on and care for the farm and the land on his own but is overcome with the workload. Devin decides to head to the city, a place he has never visited, in order to find some help for taking care of the farm. The problem is he has never left the farm and knows nothing of the world beyond his land and has only heard stories of the city from his Grandfather. After a few turns of bad luck in the city, Devin meets Kit, a young girl on her own living on the roof of a building. When hiding out from a terrible storm they meet Roman, who promises them a safe home. While Kit is skeptical she decides to stick by Devin and go with him to the Gabriel H. Penn Home For Childhood. At first the place seems too good to be true. They suddenly have access to anything and everything they could ever want: toys, clothes, their own bedrooms, and most importantly, food and drink. So if their new home is as perfect as it all seems, why are all the other children walking around in limbo uninterested in everything around them?  Throughout the novel Devin, with the help of his friends, and even his synesthesia, plot to uncover what is really going on at the home.

At the beginning of the book I was a little confused when Devin would begin describing things in color and sound. For Example: When he was reading a book with his Grandpa he said that the words made ‘chirping’ sounds. Combining these odd quirks and his struggles with reading it is first perceived as if Devin is poorly educated, but that is not the case. These ‘quirks’ were sprinkled throughout the book and were often the reason why Devin was pushed aside by other characters and labeled as ‘weird’ and even ‘crazy’. While there is a reason for this, and his condition is later ‘diagnosed’ and explained, I just wish it would have happened a little sooner, or there was more of an explanation, because even then it is still vaguely described and even understood by the characters in the book. I think the only reason why I was able to put the pieces together and understand what was going on was because I had heard of the condition before and knew what it was.

 I loved the subtle hints that were thrown at the reader throughout the story about the dark plot that was at the root of the story. For Example: Gabriel H. Penn Home for Childhood (Instead of ‘Children’). Also, even though Devin’s condition could lead to some confusion for some readers I think that his condition of synaesthesia, although it’s never referenced as such, makes the world come alive. His condition allowed for there to still be vibrancy, energy and even hope in such a spine-chilling and terrifying world.

Rating: ***


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