Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review: Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

Review: Endangered by Eliot Schrefer
The compelling tale of a girl who must save a group of bonobos--and herself--from a violent coup.
The Congo is a dangerous place, even for people who are trying to do good.

When one girl has to follow her mother to her sancuary for bonobos, she's not thrilled to be there. It's her mother's passion, and she'd rather have nothing to do with it. But when revolution breaks out and their sanctuary is attacked, she must rescue the bonobos and hide in the jungle. Together, they will fight to keep safe, to eat, and to survive.

Eliot Schrefer asks readers what safety means, how one sacrifices to help others, and what it means to be human in this new compelling adventure.

When I read a book, I like to read it like I think a writer should. That means I look out for structure, pacing, character develop, word usage. I try to read critically (you wouldn’t know it from looking at my most recent reviews, because I’ve been lucky enough to only read good books). I started Endangered like that: focused. Critical.

I ended it a sobbing mess.

For all reviewers like to dissect themes and metaphor and diction, the most important part of a book, for me, is how much you invest in what you’re reading. The characters and their (which become our) feelings. All of that is enhanced by brilliant line writing, it's true. But if the book makes me laugh out loud, it’s a win. If it makes me squeal, gasp, look away from the page so I can resume breathing, and burst into big fat baby tears, than it is a book that’s great. Endangered did all that and more.

The themes are gorgeous. Gorgeous, frightening, and powerful. Safety and friendship and humanity. Is it human to save yourself and let animals die? Is it human to give up your life for an animals? Sophie, the devoted heroine, is forced to wonder about all these things in truly harrowing or death situations.

The level of brutality in this wartime book is right on, causing just the right level of fear. The torn apart setting of the (not so) Democratic Republic of the Congo is a place rarely visited in young adult literature, and rarely visited so well. You can smell it and taste it. Parts of it are beautiful and brightly colored, but, as Sophie points out, one of the brightest colors of the color is red. Blood red.

There’s action. This is technically a thriller, fast paced, with gasp-inducing developments. It’s a lot more, though. It’s got heart too.

The heart of the book lies in Sophie’s relationship with Otto, the orphaned bonobo she takes under her wing. And it’s the strongest, most heart-wrenching, most touching relationship I’ve read about in ages. It’s stronger than most human relationships, and it’s what drives the story.  Sophie matures from a naïve girl, slightly spoiled and aching for her mother’s attention, into a fiercely courageous young woman now a surrogate mother herself. The bonobos are as real as people. Even more so. Their feelings and actions are so vivid and complex. The author does a fantastic job of submerging yourself in their world.

Following Sophie and Otto through their perils was an interactive experience. I worried about them, cheered for them, cried for them. This is an absolutely must read for anyone looking for a real world book about love, animals, friendship, and war. And for people who need to learn more about how animals should be treated (go research bonobos and pledge yourself to their cause IMMEDIATELY). I’m completely in awe of this book. Excuse me while I go wipe my wet blotchy face and blow my nose.


  1. Wow. Definitely need to read this book now. It sounds amazing.


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