“My story is not an easy one to tell, and it is not an easy one to read.”
Originally published in 2008 in Canada and adapted into a graphic novel in 2013, this heart-wrenching work of historical fiction begins with a brief, first-person introduction to Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army, a guerilla group in Uganda that abducts and recruits child soldiers. Based on actual events, the story opens and closes with a letter to readers by the composite protagonist, Jacob. It switches to third person as the 14-year-old math whiz and his fellow classmates settle into a new school year in their dormitory, before promptly being abducted by the LRA. With a kill-or-be-killed imperative, the soldiers (some even younger than Jacob) force their new recruits to march countless miles across Africa to avoid government capture and provide food only to those who kill. McKay supplies just enough detail for the imagination to fill in the scenes of horrific torture, ritualistic murders and village massacres. She also contextualizes cultural references, allowing readers to understand the geography, Acholi people, religious dichotomies and fear in Uganda. When Jacob realizes that no one is coming to save them, he plans an escape to save both old and new friends. But with a nation under siege, will their families take back would-be murderers?
This gripping story will have readers questioning humanity in the midst of evil and death. (glossary) (Historical fiction. 14-18)