“Orphans of the world and victims of human trafficking need all the press they can get, and this book does a great job of introducing the topic and allowing young people to see beyond the headlines of ‘Another illegal accidentally dies in Chunnel.’ ” —Meredith Toumayan, School Library Journal
Orphaned and plagued with the grief of losing everyone he loves, 15-year-old Abdul has made a long, fraught journey from his war-torn home in Baghdad, only to end up in The Jungle — a squalid, makeshift migrant community in Calais. Desperate to escape, he takes a spot in a small, overloaded England-bound boat that’s full of other illegal migrants — and a secret stash of heroin. A sudden skirmish leaves the boat stalled in the middle of the Channel, the pilot dead, and four young people remaining — Abdul; Rosalia, a Romani girl who has escaped from the white slave trade; Cheslav, gone AWOL from a Russian military school; and Jonah, the boat pilot’s ten-year-old nephew. As they attempt to complete the frantic and hazardous Channel crossing their individual stories are revealed and their futures become increasingly uncertain. No Safe Place is a novel of high adventure and heart-stopping suspense by a writer at the height of her powers.
Reviews & Accolades
“Flashbacks involving the effects of war and poverty on communities and families drive this fast-paced and heart-wrenching narrative, which deals honestly with countless harsh realities.” —Publisher’s Weekly
“The exciting and moving story manages to pull in the threads of our global history in the making—bombings in Baghdad, sex trafficking, and the harsh lives of underage conscripted soldiers. Violence is a big part of the teens’ short lives as a result of the injustices in the world around them; it includes beatings and deaths as a result of racism and sexism…Ellis deftly uses flashbacks to fill in the backstories of each character, reminding readers of how they can never really know where people are coming from emotionally. Her writing is highly accessible, and yet understated. Orphans of the world and victims of human trafficking need all the press they can get, and this book does a great job of introducing the topic and allowing young people to see beyond the headlines of ‘Another illegal accidentally dies in Chunnel.’ ” —Meredith Toumayan, School Library Journal
“The flashbacks add depth and dimension to the story, making the protagonists fully realized characters readers will care about. What the best literature for young readers can be—simple, elegant language crafted to tell a story as full and rich as life itself. Eminently memorable.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Flashbacks of each character’s personal story are interwoven with the present-tense violence, prejudice, kindness, and community that the young characters find on their journey. Ellis attempts a great deal for one short book, but she makes even the multiple coincidences work, and there is no sentimentality. The kids fight with each other, but they also bond as survivors. The spare narrative celebrates the power of community to overcome the worst.” —Hazel Rochman, Booklist
Immigration, multicultural friendship, family death, child prostitution, family abandonment, human trafficking
Since my involvement with Afghanistan, which began when news of the crimes of the Taliban hit the Toronto newspapers back in 1996, I have been trying to understand what war does to people. What the decisions made by people living in safety do to the daily lives of people whose opinions about the matter are not heard.
I’ve seen the way bombs and bullets shatter human bodies and devastate families. I’ve learned what happens when the destruction of infrastructure leads to bad water, food shortages and the lack of medical care. And I’ve heard from refugees about how their lives have been derailed and reduced to Waiting — for food, for shelter, for documents, for peace.
Through all the tales of crime and chaos, there has been one consistent champion — the educators. Teachers, whether professionally trained or picking it up as they go along, who carve out little niches of safety and childhood for the kids in need. Librarians who remind us that human beings are capable of creating things noble and sublime (is there anything more beautiful than a line of books on a shelf?). And others who, through music, art, sport or community building, lift us all up.
Books can help us remember what we have in common as humans.
And that’s what I try to do with mine.
READ more about Deborah Ellis’ work in Afghanistan and her books at her website
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