Review of Sanctuary

by Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher
High School    Putnam    320 pp.    g
9/20    978-1-9848-1571-2    $17.99

In this near-future dystopian novel by Women’s March co-founder Mendoza and author/performer Sher, it’s 2032 in a U.S. with frightening echoes of the one seen in recent years. The news is full of xenophobic hysteria about immigration, and the government has an armed force to deport undocumented people in the country — but everything is more extreme, including computer chips in each person’s arm to prove their citizenship. In the book’s chilling opening scene, Vali and her mother and brother, undocumented immigrants from Colombia who have paid for counterfeit chips and are living relatively peacefully in Vermont, see a broadcast on the government-controlled news that shows a teen girl killed by a landmine while she attempts to cross the border from Mexico into California. Suddenly, everything changes: California secedes from the U.S., Vali’s mother witnesses a Deportation Force raid on her farm workplace, and it becomes clear that Vali and her family must leave home to seek sanctuary in the new California. Along the difficult and harrowing trek, Vali and her brother are separated from their mother, and they witness up-close the cruelty of a country ruled by hatred and fear. This fast-paced drama depicts the trauma of Vali’s journey in an unflinching, heart-wrenching way that can feel all too real and timely.

From the January/February 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Christina Dobbs
Christina Dobbs
Christina Dobbs is an assistant professor of English Education at Boston University. She is a former high school teacher, literacy coach, and reading specialist, and she studied adolescent literacy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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