Monday, August 12, 2013

Captives by Jill Williamson

This novel for teens takes place near the end of the twenty-first century. Society in this part of the U. S. is divided between a rural area lacking modern technology and a walled and high tech city called Safe Lands.

The novel centers around three brothers from Glenrock, a rural village. Omar has always felt like he didn't measure up to his father's expectations. He meets some “enforcers” from Safe Lands and is convinced he can be someone important there. All he has to do is provide some people from his village to go with him. When the opportunity arises, Omar sends his older brother, Levi, on a wild goose chase. While Levi is gone, the Safe Lands enforcers come to the village to take whom they need. To Omar's horror, the older villagers are killed and the young men and women are taken captive. Levi returns to find his village destroyed. It is up to him to rescue those he loves, including his fiancĂ©e. Middle brother Mason, who was also taken into Safe Lands and is being trained in medicine, helps his older brother in the rescue attempts.

The themes in this novel are mature and of the nature that I would recommend this novel for older teens. The reason Safe Lands needs young women from the outside is for surrogate motherhood. Because of a plague, Safe Lands people cannot reproduce viable offspring. The city is a place of high tech pleasure. Its culture centers on entertainment and gratification. “The Safe Lands is all about pleasure and comfort...” (145) There is frequent pairing for sexual pleasure and frequent drug use for pleasure (through an inhaler). A positive point is that the narrative is not overly descriptive of these behaviors.

Another theme in this book is teens' perceptions of themselves. “We all believe lies about ourselves,” Mason tells one of the female captives. (280) This theme could generate some great discussion among teens. There is also the overall theme of self-indulgence. Some of the rural captives succumb to the temptations in Safe Lands while others remain more faithful to their rural standards. There is a great price the Safe Lands people must pay for their self-indulgence and teens may want to discuss this lesson in living. There is a discussion guide at the end of the book.

I did not find the writing compelling. I had some difficulty picturing some of the scenes. Teen readers are probably much more interested in the action than in the setting, however. And there is plenty of action. There is also lots of high tech equipment while some of the tasks, like painting over graffiti and cleaning the sewers, seem to be done the old fashioned way. Also, changing the point of view so frequently means the readers must routinely leave other characters out of mind. For someone like me who spreads out my reading (I am always reading several books, based on assigned blogging dates), the narrative ended up being disjointed.

I also had difficulty believing some of the action, such as Levi's ease in getting into the walled city, with a rifle, no less. There was also the use of the hand held radios that did not seem to be consistent with the control exercised by high tech authority. There were times when “big brother” was watching everything and others times when Levi and friends seemed to act without observation. I felt that was a bit inconsistent. Also, I can't see how impregnating a few plague-free women will save Safe Lands. And, we don't know how Safe Lands sustains itself economically, although that may not be an issue with teens.

The Christianity in rural Glenrock is primitive. Levi and others know some Christian principles and even a few Bible verses but, in general, their actions are based on morality, not on Christian belief.

The end of the novel definitely leaves us waiting for the sequel. There is much about Safe Lands that could yet be revealed, in addition to furthering the plot.

Go to to see a promotional video and some awesome Safe Lands content.

Jill Williamson is an award-winning novelist. Her debut novel, By Darkness Hid, won the 2010 Christy Award. Williamson hosts blog tours for other YA authors, and conducts writing workshops at libraries, schools, camps, and churches. She lives in John Jay, Oregon, with her husband and two children. You can find out more at

I am participating in the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour of this book. See the reviews from other participants:

Julie Bihn Thomas Fletcher Booher Keanan Brand Beckie Burnham Morgan L. Busse Jeff Chapman Pauline Creeden Emma or Audrey Engel Victor Gentile Timothy Hicks Jason Joyner Carol Keen Shannon McDermott Meagan @ Blooming with Books Rebecca LuElla Miller Asha Marie Pena Nathan Reimer Chawna Schroeder Jojo Sutis Jessica Thomas Steve Trower Phyllis Wheeler Rachel Wyant

Zondervan, 404 pages. Please visit your local Christian bookstore to purchase this book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour.

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