AK by Peter Dickinson
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Two thoughtful books hinging on the ironic contrasts between rumor, garbled press coverage, and reality have received recent awards: Avi's Nothing But the Truth (1991, Newbery Honor) is a satirical look at muddy thinking and inarticulate communication in small-town America; AK (Whitbread Award, 1990) dramatizes the tragic consequences of misinformation in an invented but realistically drawn African nation (Dickinson was born in what is now Zambia). Orphaned Paul is a ""Warrior"" (junior guerrilla) under the protection of leader Michael Kagomi. As the story opens, the war is over; Paul buries his gun (""AK"") and accepts the wise, humane Michael as his father, though he is profoundly disoriented: war has been his only mother. Michael joins a new, less vicious government that is soon overthrown; with new friend Jilli, Paul gets a bright young ""future prime minister"" to safety and goes back to the capital, where he helps instigate a mass protest--peaceful, because the government in power is aware of international observers--that turns the tables once again. Rich in political ironies and global realities (basic needs ignored by power-hungry leaders; tribes and languages; status of women; a mob that doesn't know why it's demonstrating; journalists who set up stories that affect later events), this isn't easy going, and not every reader enjoys alternative endings (one is unduly optimistic, the other cruelly bleak). Still, Dickinson deals intelligently with vital issues, devises potent symbols with his usual skill, and offers much to discuss in a vivid and compelling setting.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1992
Page count: 229pp
Publisher: Delacorte