In a world where "Sick's the same as Freak Above," only below is Safe.
Safe is both adjective and noun in Matthew’s world, both the feeling and the subterranean haven built by claw-handed Atticus. Matthew is the Teller of Safe, the person who keeps everyone's stories and retells them. Its denizens are those unwanted Above: the mentally ill, the marginal—and the Cursed. He loves the fragile, honey-haired Ariel, whom he found on patrol in the sewers around Safe and who turns into a honeybee when under stress. Bobet starts her surreal fable/adventure explosively, with a catastrophic raid by the terrifying shadows that kills leader Atticus and scatters Safe's residents. Matthew, Ariel and two others make their way alone to a sympathetic doctor Above to regroup and, they hope, retake Safe. Above, Matthew finds his received history continually under challenge. Having been the first child born in Safe, Matthew sees it as the only reality. Occasionally interspersing Matthew's tightly filtered, present-tense account with the Tales of Safe, the author rarely gives readers an opportunity to see what may be objectively "real," making for a slightly claustrophobic, normality-inverting experience.
While readers who long for concrete answers may be frustrated, those willing to go along with this captivating exploration of both individual and collective identity will find themselves pondering its implications long after the last page. (Fiction. 14 & up)