In a near-future United States, every citizen is chipped and tracked. The Great American Wall stands between the United States and Mexico, preventing immigrants from crossing the border. But when the Deportation Force starts cracking down on the “illegals,” Vali and her family must flee their Vermont home in hopes of making it to the sanctuary of California. As they travel across the country and meet others like them, they must wonder if this country will ever be safe for them.
Sanctuary was an absolutely horrifying read, not just because of the things that happened to Vali and those around her, but because it felt a bit too close to reality for comfort. As undocumented immigrants, Vali and her family are constantly in danger of being discovered and deported to an unsafe country where they probably wouldn’t be able to survive. The media demonizes immigrants and depicts the United States as a perfect country, all while suppressing any news that would indicate otherwise. The president especially blames undocumented immigrants for the problems in the United States. This book may take place in a dystopian future, but it certainly was full of things that are happening today.
I certainly appreciated how much the children in this book are treated like children. Regardless of how brave and strong Vali is, she’s still a teenager. She doubts herself constantly, wondering if what she’s doing is really the best for her and her brother. The younger children who appear later in the story are frightened, confused, and upset. Characterizing them this way really helped to drive home the horror of their situation. What would their future look like if a safe country couldn’t protect them? I can’t say I enjoyed this book so much as I appreciated its significance. Sanctuary is not an easy or light read. However, it does pose an important question – is this what we as Americans want this country to look like? And what are we willing to do to prevent it?
Yours in love and literature,
Content warning(s): deportation, ICE, familial separation, swearing, violence, death, child death, attempted sexual assault, racism, xenophobia, gun violence
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