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The One Safe Place

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Overview

“My granddad used to live here when he was young,” Devin began. “He said it was different then. It changed when it started to get hot. People stopped looking out for each other and lots of things that used to be organized just turned into a big mess.”

“Yeah?” Kit said without much interest. “Well, it’s like this now. And it’s not going to change. Some of the kids talk about getting out, how they heard about a kid who got adopted by rich people...

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The One Safe Place

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Overview

“My granddad used to live here when he was young,” Devin began. “He said it was different then. It changed when it started to get hot. People stopped looking out for each other and lots of things that used to be organized just turned into a big mess.”

“Yeah?” Kit said without much interest. “Well, it’s like this now. And it’s not going to change. Some of the kids talk about getting out, how they heard about a kid who got adopted by rich people and went to live in luxury forever. Or that there’s a home somewhere where they feed you and you can play all day and have everything you want. But it’s just fairy tales.” Kit’s mouth set in a fierce line.

“Fact is,” she said, “we’re on our own.”

“Tania Unsworth has written a lightning-fast and spine-chilling novel. Readers will root for Devin with white knuckles and pounding hearts.” —Michael Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Gone and The Magnificent 12

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
02/10/2014
In her first book for children, Unsworth takes readers inside the sinister and secretive world of the Gabriel H. Penn Home for Childhood—a refuge for specially chosen orphans in a bleak, scorching, and none-too-distant future. Devin has spent his young life on a secluded farm, “a pocket of richness” in an otherwise dry wasteland, with his grandfather. After his grandfather dies, Devin leaves for the city in order to survive. There he meets Kit—a girl with a dark past and quick, thieving hands—and Roman, who lures them both to the Home. With a photographic mind and heightened senses, Devin immediately suspects foul play at the Home, despite its extravagance and the too-good-to-be-true amenities it has to offer. Unsworth unravels the story with skilled deliberation, creating a page-turning mix of suspense, intrigue, and anxiety. The kids are genuine and quirky, just the right kind of mismatched misfits to snag readers’ hearts. This is a wholly enjoyable journey, and a dystopian vision with some great new twists. Ages 10–up. Agent: Rebecca Carter, Janklow & Nesbit. (Apr.)
Review quotes

“This frightening and mysterious book surprised me again and again. Unsworth has created a world where nothing is as it seems and horrors lurk around every corner. When you read it, you will quickly discover one terrifying fact--there IS no safe place!” —R. L. Stine

“Tania Unsworth has written a lightning-fast and spine-chilling novel . . . Readers will root for Devin with white knuckles and pounding hearts.” —Michael Grant, New York Times best selling author of Gone, BZRK, and The Magnificent 12

“[A] chilling and engrossing tale filled with detailed, sharply drawn characters . . . A standout.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“[A] marvelous dystopian thriller . . . The novel is beautifully paced, the setting vivid, the plot disturbing, the finale thrilling.” —The Buffalo News

“Reminiscent of Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always . . . Fast-paced and gripping. An original dystopian story for middle-grade readers.” —School Library Journal

“Unsworth unravels the story with skilled deliberation, creating a page-turning mix of suspense, intrigue, and anxiety. The kids are genuine and quirky, just the right kind of mismatched misfits to snag readers’ hearts. This is a wholly enjoyable journey, and a dystopian vision with some great new twists.” —Publishers Weekly

“This book has echoes of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and in many ways, although clearly aimed at the teenage market, is as compelling as an adult read. Written in a simple, almost matter-of-fact style which fits the subject matter very well and with a satisfying ending, it’s a very believable story and an excellent debut for Tania Unsworth.” —We Love This Book magazine

Voya Reviews, April 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 1) - Janice M. Del Negro
Devin lives with his grandfather on a hidden, verdant farm in a world turned near-desert by the havoc of climate change. The rich live in the city, insulated from the poor, hoarding all the resources. His grandfather’s sudden death leaves Devin unable to run the farm on his own, so he heads to the city for help. What he finds instead is violence, deprivation, and feral street children. He also meets Kit, who helps him survive despite his generous impulses. Devin is recruited by the mysterious Roman to the Gabriel H. Penn Home for Childhood, a near-legendary place where children are fed, clothed, and housed in luxury. The opulent but unsavory atmosphere cannot hide that the children are actually prisoners, however, and their fates are precarious: elderly rich “visitors” pay exorbitant fees to temporarily change minds with healthy children, despite the eventual brain damage suffered by the youngsters in the process. The discovery of this deception propels Devin and his pals to action—they escape, burning the place to the ground in the process, and decide to return to the farm to live communally. The world building is sketchy, and the lack of specificity undermines the energy of prose that more tells than shows. While the home’s dark deeds add some suspense, the pace is stolid and the outcome predictable. Characterizations are types with quirks, and backstory is added expeditiously to explain motivation. Despite a somewhat distancing third-person narrative, the language is accessible, and younger fantasy readers may be willing to follow Devin from bucolic farm to wicked city and back again. This is Unsworth’s first book for younger readers. Reviewer: Janice M. Del Negro; Ages 11 to 15.
Children's Literature - Tina Chan
Devin lives on a farm with his grandfather. Devin is used to living in a world that is always hot. When Devin’s grandfather dies, he leaves the farm for the city. He walks for days and sees things he has not seen before, such as cars, buildings, and homeless children. One of them is Kit, a tough girl accustomed to stealing to survive. Devin stays with her on a rooftop. When it rains, they go to a school gym, where they see other homeless children. After a storeowner wrongly accuses Devin of stealing, a boy named Roman rescues Devin. Roman noticed Devin at the school gym, and offers Devin an invitation to a place where children can live, play, and eat all they want. The one caveat for Devin is that Kit must go with him, to which Roman reluctantly agrees. When they arrive at the Gabriel H. Penn Home for Childhood, Devin notices children with strange behavior that he has been instructed not to look at, and he meets an intimidating Administrator who runs the Home. Devin discovers that children are taken to the Place, a room where children are injected to have Dreams. The children’s strange behavior that Devin saw is a result of being in the Dream. Nobody can leave as the property is configured with invisible lasers. Devin and his friends Kit, Luke, and Malloy devise a plan to escape by getting the key around the Administrator’s neck that unlocks the control box in the Administrator’s tower, the code to release the lasers, and they must distract the Administrator from the tower while they enter the codes in the control box. Readers will not want to stop reading this thrilling story. Reviewer: Tina Chan; Ages 12 up.
School Library Journal
★ 03/01/2014
Gr 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
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-01-22
A group of orphans uncovers a sinister plot in this chilling and engrossing tale filled with detailed, sharply drawn characters. Sometime in a future rife with climate crisis and brutal polarization of wealth, Devin buries his beloved grandfather and sets out to find someone to help him maintain the farm on which he's grown up. In the city, he struggles to find enough food to live on until he meets a clever, street-wise girl named Kit. When Devin is invited by another boy to the Gabriel H. Penn Home for Childhood and insists that Kit be included too, the pair is initially delighted at the abundance of food and other comforts, but they rapidly begin to see that something terrible underpins the home. There are many familiar tropes here, the dystopian setting and the uncanny perfection of the orphanage among them. Yet Unsworth's use of unadorned but vivid language—such as her description of Devin's mind in a moment of panic being "battered by fear and confusion like a bird beating its wings against the bars of a cage"—is incredibly effective. Likewise, the straightforward third-person narration and the gradual resistance that builds among the children to the unique horrors at the home are convincingly well-paced. A standout in the genre's crowded landscape. (Dystopian thriller. 10-16)
From the Publisher

“This frightening and mysterious book surprised me again and again. Unsworth has created a world where nothing is as it seems and horrors lurk around every corner. When you read it, you will quickly discover one terrifying fact--there IS no safe place!” —R. L. Stine

“A standout in the genre’s crowded landscape.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Here’s a literary post-apocalyptic thriller with something new and interesting to say about friendship, home, love, and community . . . This is a timeless story that deserves to become a children’s classic for decades to come.” —The Christian Science Monitor

“[A] marvelous dystopian thriller . . . The novel is beautifully paced, the setting vivid, the plot disturbing, the finale thrilling.” —The Buffalo News

“Reminiscent of Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always . . . Fast-paced and gripping. An original dystopian story for middle-grade readers.” —School Library Journal

“Unsworth unravels the story with skilled deliberation, creating a page-turning mix of suspense, intrigue, and anxiety. The kids are genuine and quirky, just the right kind of mismatched misfits to snag readers’ hearts. This is a wholly enjoyable journey, and a dystopian vision with some great new twists.” —Publishers Weekly

“Tania Unsworth has written a lightning-fast and spine-chilling novel . . . Readers will root for Devin with white knuckles and pounding hearts.” —Michael Grant, New York Times best selling author of Gone, BZRK, and The Magnificent 12

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616203290
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 4/29/2014
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 142,768
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: HL670L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

TANIA UNSWORTH, the daughter of the late Barry Unsworth, spent her childhood in Cambridge, UK. She currently lives in Boston, Massachusetts, with her husband and two sons. This is her first book for young readers.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(1)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2014

    Meh

    It was not terrible but not great; there's not much re-read value in my opinion. I'm glad I checked it out at the library, because realistically I'd only pay about $2.99 for it in ebook format. Still, it was worth a look. I want to know more about the world the story is set in and how people function in that society on a larger scale.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 16, 2014

    First off let me say that I really, really liked this debut nove

    First off let me say that I really, really liked this debut novel from Tania Unsworth. She takes you into a world where nothing seems like it appears before your eyes and ears.  It is a page turner from page one right through to the last page.  




    The setting of this book is sometime in the future when the world has been devastated with a cosmic climate change and the survivors are split into two groups according to their wealth....the haves and the have nots.  Devin, who lives in a sheltered farm with his grandfather is present when his dear, beloved caregiver passes away.  Devin lovingly buries him and then strikes out for the city in order to survive.  He cannot keep up the place on his own so he goes off to find others who may come back and help him maintain the farm and live with him there.  




    Once in the city he is horrified to see that orphaned children are everywhere and the adults just pass them by and do not care about them.  He struggles to find food and shelter daily and finally meets up with a smart, street-wise girl named Kit.  He hears about an unbelievable place that kids can go called the Gabriel H. Penn House for Childhood and by a stroke of luck (or so he thinks) he is invited to go there.  It is an utopian place where kids can eat as much as they want, play as much as they want and find adoptive parents thus resulting in a very good life.  He insists on Kit accompanying him and then  the real sinister suspense begins.  All is not as it was portrayed and they begin to realize that evil resides in and around that home entangling those within to become hostages.   Knowing they are trapped and prisoners of that foreboding place the captive kids work together to find a way to escape and somehow find a way back to safety and a new life.




    The author uses very descriptive language and takes you right into the minds and hearts of the characters she has penned.  Her portrayal of the events and circumstances causes the reader to be fully engaged with the characters plight.  I highly recommend this book.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and having taught middle grade and early high school students I know they will find this book very interesting and enthralling to read.

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  • Posted May 9, 2014

    I love a good dystopian adventure, Stephen King¿s The Stand is o

    I love a good dystopian adventure, Stephen King’s The Stand is one of my favorite books, and it is fairly easy to find a dystopian themed
    book for adults. But you don’t often see one that is geared toward the young reader. Not sure why? Because young readers are
    bombarded with horrific scenes everyday so why not more so in books. This book is written so that the young reader can experience a
    dystopian society that is filtered from to much horrible stuff, such as those found in Stephen King’s The Stand. There are a lot of
    educational points made throughout the book: such as global warming and the environment, I mean it barely rains and everything is
    pretty much dried up and dead, and those with the water are the wealthiest living off the needs of others; technology is also talked
    about because of the reason the kids are invited to the home in the first place, not trying to give anything away, but the story makes a
    point of when does technology go to far, these kids are trapped and basically technology is ruining their childhood and is also placing
    a huge mental and physical strain upon these children; which brings us to the rights of children, even today this is something that kids
    see on the news, where other children are being abused or mistreated, where does the rights of children stand. This is why this book
    stands out!

    I was not to thrilled nor to disgusted with this book, indifferent would be a good word, it was just a shrug and a “humph”.

    Am I glad I read the book?
    Yes and I am especially glad that this topic was approached for this age group and that it didn’t involve supernatural creatures.

    Would I read the book again?
    Nope probably not. Just not a good reread for me because I just wasn’t that in to it.

    Would I recommend this book to anyone?
    Yes I would. This book was written for those 10 year of age and up but I really feel that this is more for the 10-12 year old’s and less
    for anyone older than that. The topics in this book are pretty gender neutral so I think both girls and boys would enjoy it just about the
    same.

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  • Posted April 30, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Not everything is as it seems! I received an advance reader edit

    Not everything is as it seems!
    I received an advance reader edition of this book from Algonquin Books and Net Galley for the purpose of providing an honest review.

    4 Stars

    I enjoyed this book and found the story intriguing. This book has a middle grade audience but I found it quite appealing even as an adult. The story pulls you in right away and keeps you interested until the very end.

    This book is set in a future world that is quite hot. Devin has lived on the farm with his grandfather but when his grandfather suddenly dies, Devin must take care of the entire farm alone. When he realizes that the task is more than he can handle, Devin decides to head to the city to find help. City life turns out to be much harder than he expected. Devin is quickly robbed of all of his possessions and must make his way with nothing more than the clothes on his back.

    Devin soon meets a young girl, Kit, who has learned how to navigate the cruel city. When the rains come, Devin and Kit seek refuge at an old school with other kids where they meet Roman. Roman invites Devin to come with him to a place where he will be taken care of, a home for children. Devin agrees to go but only if Kit can come as well. On the surface the children's home is more than they could have ever wished for but soon they learn that not everything is quite as it seems.

    I found the world building in this book to be well done. I could completely envision the cruel city where children are left to fend for themselves in a world with too little food. The children's home was a world of its own even though it was largely a facade. I thought that the book was well written with believable characters.

    I do have to admit that I am still a bit confused by Devin's special abilities and found that it added nothing to the story. I also thought that is was strange that Devin wanted to go to the children's home when his goal was to get help for his farm.

    I would recommend this book. This is the first book by Tania Unsworth that I have had a chance to read. I plan to look for other works by this author in the future.

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