TAKEN by David Massey


Age Range: 14 - 16
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What’s meant to be a symbolic round-the-world sail goes horribly off course when the yacht and its teenage crew, four disabled British veterans of the Middle East conflict and two able-bodied assistants, is boarded off Tanzania by members of the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Present-tense narrator Rio, a Brit of Jamaican and Sikh descent, is one of the assistants. A potential Olympic sailor, she blunders into a psychodynamic she doesn’t fully understand, particularly the tension between charismatic Ash, who walks on two prosthetic legs, and his gorgeous girlfriend, the other assistant. But they are not on the boat for long. Led by the brutal (fictional) second-in-command to Joseph Kony himself, a band of mostly child soldiers manhandles the teens across Tanzania and into the Congolese jungle. Rio and Ash’s instant attraction fuels a puerile, almost embarrassing romantic subplot that stretches out along the bitter miles. Devoutly religious diabetic Izzy provides both tension—what happens when the insulin runs out?—and conscience, counseling the others to love their child captors. A creepy, witch-doctor–like LRA flunky seems painfully gratuitous, there to provide an extra fillip of exoticism—as though the machete-wielding children, including the dead-eyed girl Rio calls the Empty Child, aren’t horror enough. Contrivances and coincidences further undermine the tale.

Despite this book’s currency, Allan Stratton’s Chanda’s War (2008) remains a far better fictional treatment of the tragedy of child soldiers. (Adventure. 14-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 26th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-545-66128-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Chicken House/Scholastic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2014


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