“He was still too young to know that the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.”– Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Following as it does on the hot little kitten heels of C. Kennedy’s most recent title, the still best-selling Omorphi, Safe might seem to fall a little short of the mark. In my humble opinion, it lands right in Omorphi’s tracks. Safe is a reboot of a short previously published by the author with a different publisher. A closer look will reveal that the only thing missing from Safe are 400 pages and a whole lot of angst. It is a different kind of story, but as Mr. Kennedy is the author, it has the same basic message of hope and happiness.
Safe is the story of Caleb and Nico. They met when they were only ten years old and have been inseparable ever since. What started out as two kids who were best friends grew with their first shared kiss at age twelve into a deep and abiding love by the time they were eighteen and seniors in high school. Caleb and Nico have managed to keep the true nature of their relationship a secret for six years.
A moment in time. A second, actually a split-second, brings their secret to light. Caleb kisses Nico between classes in the hall at school. Just barely a touch of lips, it is something that hundreds of heterosexual couples do in school everyday. But because they are both young men, it warrants calls to their parents.
Caleb’s parents are loving and supportive. His mother is battling breast cancer, his father a constant source of strength to both her and Caleb. Nico, on the other hand has just his father. And his father is a violent and demanding man. When their homosexuality is revealed, Caleb’s first concern is keeping Nico safe. From his own father.
A good portion of Safe is told in flashbacks. Mr. Kennedy does a great job keeping order, as it were, so we know where and when we are. Some authors have trouble switching between past and present, but in Safe, the transitions are flawless.
This is a YA LGBT title. As so, the target audience is young adults. The definition of “young adult” is most definitely a subjective and contentious one. Teenagers have sex. I was one, I know this. I have one, so I know it from another perspective. If publishers want to bring in YA readers, especially LGBT readers who desperately need to know that they are “normal”, they need to make the books realistic for them. That’s right, for them, not for us. There are adults who don’t want to read about teenagers having sex. Then don’t read it. For teens to read about a couple who have been in love for six years and are eighteen years old but not sexually active would be considered by some to be entirely unrealistic.
Caleb and Nico have sex. Most eighteen year olds do. I won’t say all do, but the majority of young people are sexually active by the age of eighteen. Mr. Kennedy treats the sexual relationship the way it should be treated by any author or any human being; with respect. It is not salacious, it is not for the purpose of titillating the reader. It is just a natural, normal part of the evolution of Caleb and Nico’s relationship.
The physical abuse was handled, in my experience, realistically. Most children who suffer this type of abuse at the hand of a parent don’t talk about it. This is a fact Mr. Kennedy probably knows personally from his work with abused youth. I loved Caleb’s need to protect Nico. Nico’s vulnerability felt so real. Both Caleb and Nico were endearing, loveable characters. I’d really like to read more of their story as these two enter their college and adult years. It would be interesting to dig a little deeper into Nico’s mind and heart and see how he eventually deals with his abuse at the hands of his father. Also, how that abuse affects his relationship with Caleb in the future, as it inevitably will. Despite its length, Safe easily rises to the bar set by Mr. Kennedy in Omorphi. I love this author. The writer and the man. Please read this.