Forced to become a child soldier, a 16-year-old Somali refugee must confront his painful past in this haunting, thrilling tale of loss and redemption for fans of A Long Way Gone and What Is the What.
When Abdi's family is kidnapped, he's forced to do the unthinkable: become a child soldier with the ruthless jihadi group Al Shabaab. In order to save the lives of those he loves and earn their freedom, Abdi agrees to be embedded as a spy within the militia's ranks and to send dispatches on their plans to the Americans. The jihadists trust Abdi immediately because his older brother, Dahir, is already one of them, protégé to General Idris, aka the Butcher. If Abdi's duplicity is discovered, he will be killed.
For weeks, Abdi trains with them, witnessing atrocity after atrocity, becoming a monster himself, wondering if he's even pretending anymore. He only escapes after he is forced into a suicide bomber's vest, which still leaves him stumps where two of his fingers used to be and his brother near death. Eventually, he finds himself on the streets of Sangui City, Kenya, stealing what he can find to get by, sleeping nights in empty alleyways, wondering what's become of the family that was stolen from him. But everything changes when Abdi's picked up for a petty theft, which sets into motion a chain reaction that forces him to reckon with a past he's been trying to forget.
In this riveting, unflinching tale of sacrifice and hope, critically acclaimed author Natalie C. Anderson delivers another tour de force that will leave listeners at the edge of their seats.
"Anderson...breathe[s] ferocious life into a story that needs to be told. This is one of those tough but invaluable books with the power to increase a reader's awareness of and empathy for teens who have lost the right to be young." (Booklist, starred review)
“A riveting account...[where] greed, guilt, and redemption are layered in a sober yet tender narrative showing the lengths one will go to for loved ones.” (Kirkus Reviews)
"An intriguing examination of ways familial loyalty and guilt can lead anyone to make desperate choices. Anderson uses the exploration of manipulation and coercion to craft a thought-provoking narrative.” (School Library Journal)
“Narrator Kevin R. Free breathes dramatic urgency into Anderson's intense story.... Listeners hear and feel Abdi's horror and numb, helpless despair at the atrocities he witnesses - and perpetrates - and we rejoice at his redemption.” (AudioFile, Earphones Award Winner)