Author: Patricia McCormick
Language: PG (sh** a lot)
Level: High School
Recommendation: Good Read
Summary: The only way to truly survive is to "never fall down." Arn learns this lesson at the age of eleven when his village in Cambodia is invaded by Khmer Rouge troops. The entire population is marched into the countryside and forced to live in labor camps. Arn finds ways to use his "smarts" and some luck to escape the worst problems. He manages to make friends, learns to play an instrument, protects others and survives against all odds. But he has plenty of struggles after the regime is conquered as he deals with his horrific memories, the guilt of many of his actions, and adjusting to a new life in America. Despite being teased and having difficulty learning English he again rises above his circumstances to become an advocate for his homeland and his people.
Review: Tough but important subject matter, this book is a great way to learn about the Khmer Rouge. Though there are still plenty of instances of violence, rape, and murder the worst takes place off-page or is handled deftly conveying the horrors without dwelling on them. Well-written but heartbreaking, and not for the faint of heart.