Author: David Massey

Publication: 2014, Chicken House

Pages: 311

Overall Rating:

Rating for Action:

Quantity of Action:

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Six athletes have come together to sail around the world and raise money for charity.  Four are disabled former soldiers, two – including Izzy – are their able-bodied assistants.  But their trip is cut short when they are kidnapped by members of the Lord’s Resistance Army, an African terrorist group that uses child soldiers and doesn’t shy away from extreme violence to make its point.  As the hostages are dragged ever deeper into the depths of the jungle it will take everything they have to survive. 

Age of Main Character: 17

What I Liked the Most: As with Torn, Massey doesn’t pull any punches in making this a dark and gritty tale about kidnapping, child soldiers, and African terrorists.  The constant threat of violence is real and immediate, hanging over Izzy and her companions on every page.  The conditions are stark and dirty.  They are desperately hungry, in pain, and always riding the knife edge of fear.  Make no mistake, this feels utterly real, not all of the hostages will survive, and those who do will be dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder for many years to come.

That said, as in Torn, this is not some one-dimensional tale about evil terrorists and the hero who takes them down.  Massey manages to make the terrorists into real people, and creates real connections with some of the desperate, terrified child soldiers under their command.  In the end, the book is as much an expose on the horrors of child soldiers as it is a story of kidnapping and terrorism.

The setting is lush and as compelling as the story.  From the journey aboard their yacht to the dark, humid depths of the jungle – from a medical clinic to a safari park, to an isolated logging village – you’ll feel like you are in the very heart of Africa.  Massey has been there, has trekked through the jungles and visited the towns, and that first-hand experience leaps out on every page.

What I Liked the Least: This is a minor point, and I hope not too much of a spoiler, but Izzy and her friends are captured in the waters just south of Madagascar and ultimately travel almost 3000 miles by boat, truck, and foot to the jungles of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Yes, the story is all about the journey and what happens to the hostages and their captors as it takes place.  But I couldn’t help wondering why Massey didn’t find a way to set their kidnapping a little closer to their ultimate destination.  Because for such an otherwise realistic book, I found it very hard to believe that Mwemba and his group of heavily armed child soldiers would really have travelled that far, through both international waters and enemy territory, to kidnap their hostages.  Again, this had no impact on my enjoyment of the story, just an oddity I had some trouble getting my head around.

How Good was the Action? Just as in Torn, the action here is raw and real.  It comes in brief spurts, but each one is infused with tremendous emotional power and instead of impossible heroics and GI Joe combat sequences you get fights that are quick, dirty, and full of fear.  It’s hard to imagine that if you really were a hostage of the LRA, the action and violence you’d witness would be much different than what Massey has depicted.

How Engaging was the Story? Utterly mesmerizing.  From the lush setting to Izzy’s constant battle for sanity and survival, to the loss of dear friends and her slowly developing connection with one of the child soldiers, all playing out against the backdrop of the violent and twisted terrorist leader, Moses Mwemba.  You will not be able to put this one down.

Profanity: Little to none.

Sex: Some light kissing and a bit of mild fantasy.

Violence: Definitely.  As in Torn, Massey takes a very realistic approach to his stories.  The Lord’s Resistance Army is a real, and extremely violent organization, and any war or kidnapping that involves the use of drugged out and terrified child soldiers is inevitably going to be violent.  Massey doesn’t try to hide that.  People are shot and hacked to pieces in cold blood and Izzy is subjected to a round of vicious torture.  It’s not gratuitous, and Massey does an excellent job of letting us know exactly what horrors are unfolding without drenching the pages in blood.  But this is a dark and violent tale none-the-less.

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