Friday, December 19, 2014

Taken by David Massey

Scholastic, 2014

Rio can't believe her luck.  Her dream job became a reality when she was chosen to work with the unique crew on Freedom, a custom outfitted yacht.  Starting in South Africa, the crews’ goal is to sail around the world.  Before Rio boards the yacht, she is caught off-guard by a bizarre man, rattling a dirty leather bag with his gnarled and stained fingernails, staring at her with manic eyes….

The crew consists of five veterans of the war, each with their own personality and abilities.  Ash has two blades instead of legs, and still has the strength and dexterity to match a man with legs.  Marcus has to be careful around the sun because of his severe burns to his body that are starting to heal, stretching the scars tight across his face.  Charis has a biotic arm, the first of its kind she can manipulate with her muscles.  Izzy fell from a helicopter and shattered her leg while also coping with Type I diabetes.  Rio and Jennifer are there as support for the team, and everyone is ready to take off. 

Then disaster strikes.  They only wished it had been a monsoon, but it is something much deadlier.  A group of pirates have seized the ship and ransacked it, taking them as hostages and sinking the yacht.  No one knows where they are or what has happened to them.  Now the crew is on their way to most savage part of Africa, where Joseph Kony and his army of children, known as the Lord’s Resistance Army, awaits their arrival.

Surrounded by children with guns and blank faces and eyes, the group must be careful around these trigger-happy soldiers, who care nothing about killing a human.  Although Ash and most of the others are veterans, they face something much more difficult – being able to survive with their handicaps.  Mwemba, the leader, is asking for a huge ransom, but he is only part of the problem.  Rio keeps her eye on a girl she calls the Empty Child, a girl whom the others shy away from, even the Sangomo (witch doctor) and Mwemba.  Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer is the tactic of Rio and her mates live as they walk their way through desert and jungle hanging on to every shred of hope in order to survive.

This is unlike any other YA novel I’ve read because the storyline is so very unique.  David Massey does an EXCELLENT job at taking a serious world issue that has come to the forefront of many nations and building a fictional account of it specifically for young adults.  The characters become a cohesive part of the novel, showing both the hopeful and hopeless situation they are a part of, whether it's personal or not.  Within the larger story are smaller ones that deal with the relationships between the crew, especially Rio’s relationships.  Most interesting is that Massey incorporates the strength of individuals with handicaps, examples of true human endurance.  This is one begging to be read and excellently delivered.  Recommended upper JH/HS. 

Non-fiction pair: graphic novel, Army of God by David Axe.

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