Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

Plot: This is a true autobiographical story. Ishmael Beah was twelve when he fled the rebel attacks on his home in Sierra Leone, and he was thirteen when a government camp handed him an AK-47 and turned him into a soldier. This story tells of the war-torn land he was forced to wander to survive and his experiences as a child soldier in a bloody, merciless war.

First Line: "There were all kinds of stories told about the war that made it sound as if it were happening in a faraway and different land."

Comments: This book taught me a lot. I couldn't stand reading about these things, but neither could I put the book down and try to forget I ever picked it up. I couldn't believe this kind of thing had happened - and still is. According to the website (alongwaygone.com), there may be as many as 300,000 child soldiers in the world as of now. That's 300,000 children forced to kill and conquer, forced to use weapons; 300,000 children who have lost their childhood. This is a story that needs to be heard.

Reading this book, I felt empty and unemotional. My mind couldn't process the horrible things Ishmael Beah experienced, the things that no one, young or old, should ever have to go through. I just didn't know what to feel. Ishmael Beah describes everything in a matter of fact kind of way, bluntly and without trying to soften the blow. I feel almost as if I were there, except that there is no way anyone could ever imagine or understand; how could I feel as if I was standing right next to Ishmael while he watched that house burn down, how could I feel as if I was crouching next to him when he killed his first man, how could I? I feel guilty that I ever considered I was feeling empathy - only sympathy, horror, and a determination to end this.

Rating: I can't rate this book. There's no way. I strongly recommend that you read it, but beware: the truth hurts.

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