“Jenna and Andi Tikaani-Gray are hoping for a fresh start. Though twelve year-old Andi has long struggled with a rare medical disorder, she and her mother have finally received good news from out-of-town specialists. It’s news they desperately needed, especially after the recent death of Jenna’s husband (Andi’s dad) in a car accident.
But as they are flying home to Alaska, ready to begin again, the unthinkable happens. The pilot sabotages their small plane and crashes into Sultana, one of the most remote and dangerous mountains in the Land of the Midnight Sun. Even worse, a winter storm is headed their way along with someone who doesn’t want to save them, but to kill them.
Only one man can keep them alive: Cole Maddox, the mysterious last-minute passenger who joined them on their flight. But trust doesn’t come easy to Jenna or Andi – and they both sense Cole is hiding something.
A relentless tale of survival and suspense unfolds, involving military technology designed by Jenna’s late husband that some would do anything to possess.”
Thoughts: Regrettably, No Safe Haven is a perfect example of why I struggle with the premise of Christian fiction. I have no issues with people’s beliefs in a Higher Power, with the idea of forgiveness and loving one’s neighbor, and other Christian elements. I do however wrestle with the idea that these tenets are purely Christian. I also take issue with the idea that someone is not trustworthy unless they believe in God or consider themselves Christian or that somehow being a Christian makes someone completely honest and reliable. For all its talk of tolerance and love, I find Christian fiction to be highly intolerant and exclusive. In my limited experience, the enemies are always non-Christian, and the heroes always find their way back to God after having lost their faith for some reason. This is a very narrow and dangerous viewpoint in our highly diverse world and is one that does nothing to promote the tolerance and acceptance which Christians love to claim as their primary message.
No Safe Haven does nothing to convince me that the true message within Christian fiction is not one of intolerance, however subtle that message may be. Throughout the novel, there are several moments when a character questions another person’s actions as implausible because s/he is a Christian and would never do such a thing. At other times, a character urges others to accept God before it is too late, and these discussions always occur during highly stressful and action-packed scenes. No other belief system is as important as theirs. Call me crazy, but that is an attitude that is difficult to stomach.
Take away the Christian elements, which do make up approximately half of its 352 pages, and the actual story of No Safe Haven is not horrible. Andi is adorable, bouncing between a precocious girl-child and an all-too-wise young women as only a preteen can. Her bond with her mother is breathtakingly sweet. Cole makes for a great mystery man. However, the entire novel feels more like action-lite than a true thriller. The mystery is convenient, while the danger in which Andi and Jenna find themselves never really gets under the skin of the reader. There is tension, but it does not build to a fever pitch, as a reader knows that the good guys will win out in the end. In fact, the entire story is very black and white. There are the good guys and there are the bad guys, and there is no confusing of the two. It makes for an interesting storyline but one that is not absorbing, pleasant without being completely engrossing.
Unfortunately, the story itself cannot compete and does nothing to offset its more negative aspects. The proselytizing within No Safe Haven is just too much too often. When not discussing faith, God, and the power of prayer, there is the long and repetitive discussions of Andi’s medical disorder, one in which Kayla Woodhouse has firsthand experience, as she has it herself. While the disorder is fascinating in what it means for sufferers, after the third or fourth explanation of the dangers, the drama behind the illness loses its effectiveness. For the right audience, No Safe Haven may indeed be compelling. Sadly, I am not a part of that target audience, and I consider No Safe Haven a great lesson in that there is such a thing as moving too far beyond the boundaries of one’s comfort zone.
Acknowledgments: Thank you to LibraryThing’s Early Reader Program for my review copy!