August 23, 2012

Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala

Between the name and the cover of this book (my particular copy had a group of boys standing on a hill) I was intrigued by this book.  A quick glance at the inside cover and I was even more intrigued.  So I picked it up, and it was very interesting, and tragic, all at the same time.

Beasts of No Nation follows Agu. Agu is a smart little boy, who, went war started in his nation, was picked up by some rebel fighters and forced into being a soldier.  Along with this came forced killing, rape, and other atrocities that should never happen to a child, or really anyone against their will.  His life as a young warrior becomes brutal and harsh but he still remembers the days from his family and laments for them as he struggles to forget what happens by day.

Agu is a very sympathetic character.  I really didn't care if he was killing people because for him it was the survival of the fittest and not a life that he chose for himself.  He wanted to be educated and instead was degraded so far as a human being that I wanted to weep for him.  There were even some other redeeming people in the book, although Agu was our narrator, and for them I harbored a little hope as well.  As for the bad guys, well, let's just say they were easy to hate.

This book, although I can't verify having never experienced it myself, does seem to be very authentic in the telling of what happens to the child soldiers who are forced into war.  This is something that is happening all over the world and shouldn't be ignored, but with the brutality few are willing to step in to do something about it.  So many children are being hurt, forced to kill, and this book kind of opens the curtain on that, even if it is a fictional story.  There is a lot in here that isn't for those with weak stomachs, as it doesn't hold back on the violence or rapes experienced by these boys.  The writing style was the in the present tense, first person.  I normally don't like that kind of writing but it really worked in this book.  Especially with the use of onomatopoeia it really felt like Agu was there telling you the story.  Although after awhile it did cause the brain to hurt a little bit from translating it in your head; kind of like a long conversation with someone learning English.  I think if the book had been any longer I would have started to have trouble with it.  But as is, it was a good length.

A very sad and tragic tale, but one that was also very informative on just how the life of a child warrior could be.  I would read more by this author.

Beats of No Nation
Copyright 2005
142 pages

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