Friday, December 14, 2012

Audiobook review: "Safekeeping" by Karen Hesse

Title: Safekeeping
Author: Karen Hesse
Publisher: Macmillan Young Listeners, 2012 (print available from Feiwel and Friends)
Narrator: Jenna Lamia

It's an unspecified year sometime in the near future, and the American People's Party has taken over the US government. When the new president is assassinated, the government starts to take control of everyone, arresting any person who expresses some form of rebellion or disagreement with the government. When all this transpires, Radley is volunteering in an orphanage in Haiti, but despite everyone else's warnings she desperately wants to get home to her parents to make sure they're all right. And so begins her journey.

After no one arrives to pick her up at the airport, Radley must think of a plan b, and soon. She decides to walk home, and what would normally be a 2-hour journey becomes one that lasts for days. She arrives home, only to discover a house that look abandoned. Her only option seems to be what she promised she'd do if she came to trouble: head north to Canada.

Radley begins as a naive, spoiled girl, only because everything she's ever needed or wanted has been provided to her by her parents. I have to be honest, at first I was irritated by her constant refrain of how her parents usually took care of everything, but it quickly becomes clear that she is willing to do whatever it takes to survive.

Eventually Celia comes into the picture. She is a loner too, though she has a dog named Jerry Lee, and the two form a tenuous and wary bond when Radley nurses Celia back to health from a fever. The two begin traveling together, slowly becoming friends. I honestly wasn't a big fan of Celia, but I appreciated the extra character and how their friendship leads to both of their growth and sense of family.

This is a very quiet book, despite the occasional tense scene. It's not the page-turner dystopian novel we've all come to expect, but for a patient teen, or perhaps one who isn't ready for the more violent novels in the genre, it may be worth it. I will say that since I listened to this on audio, I was deprived of the photography in the print version. They come in a pdf on the last disc, but clearly it's not the same as seeing it as you read it.

Speaking of audio, I'm sorry to say I am not a fan of Jenna Lamia. Period. I'd previously listened to her narrate Linger by Maggie Stiefvater and didn't like her then either. That's not to say she doesn't do a good job narrrating; I just really don't like her voice. It's too high-pitched for my taste, making her sound much younger than she or her characters actually are. I found her voice for Celia especially grating, which may be part of the reason why I never really connected with her as a character. That said, it wasn't awful, and I listened to the whole thing without many problems.

I am glad I listened to this, as it's a quietly powerful story of survival and hope, but I have heard better productions.

Disclosure: I got this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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