Summary: Saara Mäis is recently home from helping care for her baby cousin Sanni while her aunt was recovering from Tuberculosis. Adjusting to life with her younger brother, John, again is difficult, as they always seem to be at odds with each other. It’s 1915 though, and while the Dominion of Canada is entrenched in fighting World War I, Port Arthur, Ontario is ripe with paranoia surrounding German and other foreign residents. Spies and sabotage are seen at every turn, and whole families are shipped away to internment camps if even a whiff of suspicion comes there way. When the focus turns on Saara and John’s father, a Finnish immigrant, after a grain elevator is set on fire, it is up to the siblings to put their differences aside and clear their father’s name before it comes out in the papers.
Number of Pages: 293
Age Range: 12-13
Review: The third and final installment in a trilogy of books featuring Saara Mäis, a young Finnish-Canadian girl, Sabotage by Karen Autio can still be enjoyed as a stand alone book. In a trilogy, this is harder to achieve than one might think.
It’s never exactly fun to read about another time in Canada’s history when internment camps were used, but I love the dynamic Autio had going on between Saara and John as siblings. The use of the altering narration was also quite effective. Autio’s writing reminds me that there are many things in the Canada and the world I have yet learn about, and I’m glad writers like her are willing to tackle such subjects.
Set against a rich backdrop of paranoia, Autio captures a community where no one knows who to trust. There’s a powerful agenda being served by the newspaper as propaganda and lies are fostered, convincing people that spies and saboteurs are everywhere. For Saara and John, this is especially hard to understand because they consider themselves to be Canadian while others see them as being Finnish because their parents are from Finland. John’s perspective of the newspaper industry was enlightening, and I hoped he would grow up to be the kind of reporter who would tell the truth, instead of ‘umbellishing.’
I didn’t know the paranoia was so great that men and their families were sent away to an internment camp if they were German or Austrian or Ukrainian, but I guess with the Japanese internment camps during World War II, I should have suspected. Brigette’s letters from the camp were quite informative and eye-opening.
In the end though, I like that it boils down to a sister and brother finding common ground and working together. Saara and John had so many misconceptions between them, and a great deal of mistrust, but their family bonds triumph.
This story is perhaps a bit young to be considered a true teen book, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
“‘Have you noticed how often men write to newspapers to childe other men for lack of backbone, and then sign fictitious names?’ – The Note Book, Port Arthur Daily News, 1915″ – from Sabotage by Karen Autio, page 30
“‘Voi, voi,’ said Mama, rummaging in the cupboard. ‘We say in the Old Country, ‘Happiness is a place between too much and too little.’ I’m worried that we’re getting too close to too little.'” – Mama from Sabotage by Karen Autio, page 175