A 14-year-old boy struggles to survive the Communist takeover in Vietnam.
Prior to 1975, Viet and his family lived well in their Saigon neighborhood. His father worked as an intelligence officer for the U.S. Army, and he and his brother both attended school. But when Ho Chi Minh’s forces take control of the country, his family loses everything and is forced to flee. Several chapters and far too many pages later, Viet is arrested on the streets of the city and is subsequently put into a labor camp deep in the jungles of Vietnam. Based on the true story of survivor Viet Nyugen, Dunivan’s sprawling, just-the-facts narrative vividly captures Viet’s story, the Saigon setting, and the ups and downs of living in 1975 Saigon. The details are rendered lovingly and cinematically, and as a result, the plot feels very real. What the book lacks, however, is control. The main arc of the plot doesn’t kick off until readers are about halfway into the story, and the author’s love for the details often mires him in the minutiae when teen readers will want him to get on with the story. Despite these flaws, Dunivan has penned a compelling, rich first novel that shows his considerable promise.
An informative first effort with lots of potential. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)