Keep You Safe by Melissa Hill
Genre: Women's Fiction
Release Date: August 22, 2017
Melissa Hill paints an emotional tale of the anti vaccs vs. pro vaccs stance. It's a topic that draws very strong opinions, including my own. I know someone who suffers from an immunodeficiency, her life could be jeopardized by children and adults who carry contagious diseases. She stays locked up in her home the majority of the time, as she finds it safer than going out into a world where many kids are no longer vaccinated against things like polio, measles, etc. That's essentially what you have at play in Keep You Safe.
Kate O'Hara never expected to reach this point. Her husband died unexpectedly leaving her a single mom to a lively five-year-old. Kate dotes on Rosie, as the first round of vaccinations in Rosie's infancy found Rosie to be one of the handful of children with a severe allergy to gelatin. Rosie simply could not have her remaining childhood immunizations without risking a fatal allergic reaction. For Kate, not vaccinating her child was not a choice but a situation mandated by a health issue. All she can do is hope herd immunity is enough to keep Rosie safe.
Popular mommy blogger Madeleine Cooper didn't vaccinate her daughter, Clara, because she didn't believe the pharmaceutical companies or the government. Even after the autism risk was debunked and the doctor who wrote the study admitted it was faked, Madeleine opted to believe autism is a risk anyway. If her daughter becomes ill, Madeleine hopes she'll get over whatever it is without issue.
Tragedy starts to set in when Madeleine makes the choice to send Clara to school sick. It turns out Clara has the measles and passes it to Rosie. While Clara gets over her disease, Rosie isn't as lucky. Rosie ends up in the hospital fighting for her life. Kate's left to sit by her daughter's bedside. It creates a rift that will affect both families and many community members on a very deep, personal level.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Drawn by the plot, I was eager to see how things would work out. I felt deeply for Kate. She had no choice but to not have her daughter vaccinated against diseases that were, at one time, no longer a childhood threat. I felt for her struggles financially and emotionally.
I never liked Madeleine. All of her, "I'm losing blog readers" and "they're turning against me," annoyed me. While realistic, it definitely made it hard to sympathize with her on any level. I hated her husband even more. His pompous attitude made him very unlikable.
The author definitely did a great job at developing her characters, whether you loved or hated them.
The story's ending bothered me. I didn't enjoy the surprise twist. Part of this is likely based on the fact that I wanted Madeleine's family to pay for their snobby attitudes. Even when Madeleine makes an effort to redeem herself, I no longer cared.
I'd love to return to the story and see it from the child's point of view. I have a family member who is not vaccinated. Now that this teen is almost an adult, he does talk to my kids about the fact that after years of being homeschooled, he's not sure he'll ever be able to experience a public college, other than online classes, because laws prevent him from doing so. He feels limited by the choice his parents made. Is that right?
The strongest aspect of this book, beyond the author's steady writing pace that kept me hooked, was the lure into the subject matter. It posed the issue and really made you think. I doubt it will convince any person who is anti vacc to reconsider their stance, but I hope it at least makes them think.
RTR's Bottom Line
This is reading group fodder. Keep You Safe is the perfect book to launch some very lively discussions. I'm not sure there is a right or wrong viewpoint, but I do love how the author posed it from both angles and presented the consequences that many make based solely on a fraudulent report.