Content Overview

Overall Content



Alcohol, Drugs, Smoking


Intimacy, Sex, Immodesty


Violence, Weapons, Blood, Crime


Potentially Intense Themes


**As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases. 

My Opinion

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5) Sanctuary is a book I did not expect to love. I’m a sucker for dystopias and apocalyptic-type books but this one trampled me. Valli is in California as an undocumented illegal immigrant. The year is 2032, so not far away, but the president is locking down on illegals and putting a microchip in everyone to verify their status.

I can’t tell you much more without ruining it but I can tell you that it completely sucked me in. When I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about it and when I was reading, I needed everyone to leave me alone. I ran through the gamut of emotions and I felt them hard. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- to make me feel these emotions so intensely is the sign of a true writer. It felt very real. It was raw and it was heartbreaking. I felt true fear and anxiety and I applaud Mendoza and Sher for taking an extremely controversial topic and bringing it to light in a way that makes me never see it the same again.

The violence section is not very high, but be aware that those few instances were very intense and some very violent. There is rape and attempted rape and quite a few intense grief moments. I recommend reading the content details fully before letting a child or sensitive person read this book.

Thank you immensely to NetGalley and Paola Mendoza, Abby Sher and Penguin Teen for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This book releases September 1, 2020.


Paola Mendoza, Abby Sher

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.

-Excerpt taken from Goodreads.

Check Goodreads to see the book’s ratings. 

Detailed Content Review


F***- 18

H***- 3

S***- 20

A**- 9


D***- 1


Religious Cursing



G**- 1


Derogatory terms etc-

Alcohol, Drugs, Smoking

A mother pours herself a shot of alcohol and smokes two cigarettes.

Two drunk men yell at each other.

A man smokes a cigarette.

Two women have been drugged. 

A man smokes a cigarette.

Intimacy, Sex, Immodesty

*Minor LGBTQ+ aspects included*

A mother is forced to go behind dumpsters with a man and comes out with scuffed knees and looking “a thousand times older.” Rape implied. Her children are nearby and have to wait for her.

A man steps up to a young woman and propositions her. He also calls her “fresh meat” and says “I don’t mind sharing.”

Two women are glassy eyed and tied to a bed frame. A man says they’re being punished and have to make him “feel better.” They have been drugged. The man says he keeps them around for officers to “use.”

A man puts his hand on a young woman’s behind. She tries to ignore it. 

A man drags a woman into a room to rape her. 

A man tells his friends when he told his mom he is gay. 

Violence, Weapons, Crime, Blood

While watching a livestream of a young woman trying to cross the Mexican American border, she steps on a land mine and is “blown into pieces.” Gas canisters are released on people that have been watching, then rioting and people fall to the ground and writhe. A helicopter opens fire on the crowd, killing many. 

A father is taken away to be deported. His wife receives a picture months later of him beaten, bloody and shot to death. His young 9 year old daughter sees the picture and it haunts her for years.

Five young women had been tortured and drowned in a river.

A man is shot in the back nine times.

Officers knock an elderly man to the ground and beat him. 

Officers smash windows and more in a store of a deported man. 

Officers beat a man. 

Shots are fired, people are crying and screaming. A young woman shields a young boy with her body.

A man has been shot, “a tide of blood leaking out of his neck.” 

A man holds a gun to a man’s head. 

A young man digs a knife into a young woman’s arm to get her microchip out. She is bleeding profusely. She blacks out. 

Two people hear fists meeting skin and groans. A man takes a woman and she cries for her two young kids. He drags her along the floor as she thrashes. 

Gun shots are heard, then a body hits the floor. A man punches a man. Another shot is heard. A pool of blood starts flowing down the floor. 

A man tells of men swinging his sister around by her hair, then one shooting his mom in the stomach. There was a lot of blood. 

A group see people in cages. The ones that aren’t in cages are tied together with neck collars and chains. They are being beaten. 

A young woman knocks a man out with a rock and a young man ties him up. 

A young woman holds a rifle to some teens.

A shot is fired at some teens, then many more. 

Potentially Intense Themes

A young woman’s grandparents burned to death in their home. 

A young girl realizes she’s different (an immigrant) and that her dad could be taken away by ICE. 

Chips are required of every American citizen and a young girl passes out when she receives hers. It is most likely a stolen identity from someone who has died. 

A young girl’s father is taken by ICE. He goes missing then a picture of his body with 9 bullet holes is sent to his wife. His 9yo daughter sees. He had been beaten and bloody before the picture. 

All teachers are required to carry handguns. 

Many people are deported or are missing so are assumed deported. 

**SPOILER** A mother is arrested and taken from her children.  Her young son wets himself in fear. 

People walk through many cities damaged by tornados. 

A young man talks about his mother and grandmother dying and his two homes being destroyed by disasters and people. 

A young boy falls into a pond and drowns. A young woman dives in to save him but he has died. His mother is hysterical and howling. The grief is very real. The mother carries the bloated, discolored corpse. Someone digs a grave with their hands.

A young boy collapses from fatigue and dehydration.

A young woman dreams about her family drowning and her not being able to save them. 

**As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases. 


  1. Sounds like an intriguing read! I have some dystopia fatigue nowadays but I do like books set in the near future, they can be really trippy!

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