2021 Red Maple Award — Shortlisted
As far-fetched as her father’s plan sounds, sticking to it is easy for Harbour — until it isn’t.
Fourteen-year-old Harbour is living in a tent in a Toronto ravine with her dog, a two-month supply of canned tuna, and an unconventional reading list. She’s not homeless, she tells herself. She’s merely waiting for her home — a thirty-six-foot sailboat — to arrive with her father at the helm. Why should she worry when the clouds give her signs that assure her that she’s safe and protected?
When her credit card gets declined, phone contact from her father stops, and summer slips into a frosty fall, Harbour is forced to face reality and accept the help of a homeless teen named Lise to survive on the streets. Lise shows Harbour how to panhandle and navigate the shelter system while trying to unravel Harbour's mysterious past. But if Harbour tells her anything, the consequences could be catastrophic.
Christina Kilbourne is the author of Detached and the award-winning Dear Jo. Her writing has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, Slovenian, and Ukrainian. She lives in Bracebridge, Ontario.
[A] gritty, highly engaging, realistic mystery that captures the harsh realities of homeless teens in crisis. This plot-driven novel with well-drawn characters will pull readers into a devastating tale of intrigue and redemption.
Kilbourne draws a careful and convincing picture of the shelters and squats occupied by the city’s homeless youth
Safe Harbour is beautifully constructed and written…All told it’s a dramatic coming of age story about reconciling the dark secrets of the past and facing an uncertain future.
A unique and educational read that presents a new look at homelessness and mental illness.
Safe Harbour is one of those must-reads, a story that promises not to be forgotten, even after the novel has been put down.
Safe Harbour is a page-turner...The upbeat neat ending to the plot makes Safe Harbour an accessible, life-affirming read while still drawing attention to homelessness and mental illness. The people are well-drawn by Kilbourne who uses engaging passages to illustrate the characters’ behaviours and actions. Kilbourne excels at describing the shelters and hangouts of the homeless. Kilbourne’s realistic drama will be a welcome addition to public and school libraries alike. Highly Recommended.