DNF Review: Sanctuary

I received an ARC of Sanctuary by Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher from Penguin Teen through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I don’t think I’ve ever written a DNF (did not finish) review before, so this is a first. Usually when I DNF a book, it’s not an ARC I’ve been given by the publisher for review, it’s one that I decided to read on my own. After the whole debacle on Sunday regarding an author calling out a reviewer for DNF-ing and posting a “bad” review on Goodreads, I am a little nervous to post my thoughts.

But, the whole point of reviewing books are to review them, good or bad. So I’m gonna talk about why I DNFed this book and what my thoughts are. Surprisingly, they’re not bad at all!


Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Co-founder of the Women’s March makes her YA debut in a near future dystopian where a young girl and her brother must escape a xenophobic government to find sanctuary.

It’s 2032, and in this near-future America, all citizens are chipped and everyone is tracked–from buses to grocery stores. It’s almost impossible to survive as an undocumented immigrant, but that’s exactly what sixteen-year-old Vali is doing. She and her family have carved out a stable, happy life in small-town Vermont, but when Vali’s mother’s counterfeit chip starts malfunctioning and the Deportation Forces raid their town, they are forced to flee. 

Now on the run, Vali and her family are desperately trying to make it to her tía Luna’s in California, a sanctuary state that is currently being walled off from the rest of the country. But when Vali’s mother is detained before their journey even really begins, Vali must carry on with her younger brother across the country to make it to safety before it’s too late. 

Gripping and urgent, co-authors Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher have crafted a narrative that is as haunting as it is hopeful in envisioning a future where everyone can find sanctuary.

This is one of the books Penguin Teen offered for review and it sound interesting, so I said “sure!” And going into this book, I was enjoying it, as much as you can enjoy reading about xenophobia in a dystopian world.

I liked the premise of this book and where it was going. It is very political in terms that it discusses issues and explores what would happen should these issues get out of hand, so if you’re not a fan of that, you won’t like this book. Plus, it is obviously in support of immigration and making it easier for immigrants to get their citizenship and be given basic human rights.

Not sure why it’s a political issue, but it is. Anyways –

I had no issue with the topic of this book or the heaviness, it was actually the main character that affected me enough to stop reading. See, I suffer from anxiety and recently it’s been pretty bad. I’ve been reading a lot to help cope with it and well, this book didn’t help it.

Vali’s fear, anxiety, and paranoia really affected me. It was written so well that I started reflecting her emotions. If she felt stressed, I felt stressed. When it came to her anxiety and paranoia, it began to really freak me out.

As a thriller fan, I’ve never experienced a feeling like this before. I’ve read horror and thriller books alike that made my heart pound and my palms sweat as I waited for the moment of anticipation. But for some reason this book affected me in a greater way than I’ve experienced before, props to the authors on that.

But, that also means that I was going through horrible anxiety and paranoia while reading this book. Not great. I tried to push through because I was enjoying the storyline, but it became too much for me to handle, so I stopped at 44%.

This, obviously, is no fault of the authors. They wrote a story that captured what people really feel in these situations and conveyed them so well, I felt it! But this book wasn’t for me because of how well written these feelings are.

Based on what I read, I would give this book a starstarstar.5 // 5 stars. It wasn’t a favorite of mine, but the book was good and there were a lot of things I liked about it, excluding the anxiety. And if you’re looking for a dystopian that examines what xenophobia can produce, or want some kind of insight into the fear illegal immigrants have to deal with on a daily basis, then this book is perfect for you!

Sanctuary releases on September 1st, 2020. Here is a link to my local indie store if you’re interested in preordering.




If this book sounds interesting, check out This Is My America by Kim Johnson.






If you liked this review, please like this post, leave a comment, follow, share with your friends – anything is appreciated!


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