Photo and review by @anderslara on Instagram
Thanks to @kidlitexchange for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.
Soldier Boy by Keely Hutton
(Farrar, Straus Giroux BFYR ~ June 13, 2017)
I needed to take a bit to process this book because WOW. Soldier Boy is the true story of Ricky Richard Anywar, who was abducted in 1989 to fight with Joseph Kony’s rebel army in the Ugandan civil war. He was 14 years old. From that fateful moment when he and his brother and friends are captured and made to bear witness to the destruction of their homes and families, the reader lives Ricky’s unimaginable nightmare alongside him. Forced to kill government soldiers or be killed by the very rebels he fights with, forced to show loyalty to no one but Kony or risk a slow and torturous death (the rebels are taught that Kony is the Holy Spirit and can read their thoughts), and later forced to train new abductees (even children), it’s a marvel that Ricky not only eventually escaped the rebel army, but went on to found Friends of Orphans, a non-profit organization that aids in the rehabilitation of those who’ve been, and continue to be, affected by the war. (I recommend looking up Friends of Orphans to learn more.)
The story switches between Ricky’s account and a second perspective 20 years later in the form of Samuel, a fictional abductee whose character is molded from the thousands of child soldiers Ricky has helped to rehabilitate.
This book is difficult to read (that’s an understatement), but goodness is it important. Ricky’s story is unforgettable, but in Northern Uganda it is unfortunately not unique. The horrors described are unimaginable, but even in the midst of such violence and terror, Ricky’s unshakable spirit and unwavering bravery pulse with a small but vital spark of hope, a thread that might have been missed if not for the careful and exceptional writing by Keely Hutton.
For more on this title and issue, see the Nerdy Book Club interview with the book’s author and Ricky.
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