Endangered by Eliot Schrefer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Endangered by Eliot Schrefer tells the story of Sophie, a Congolese-Italian American young woman. Her mother runs a bonobo sanctuary in the Congo. And as history tells us, the Congo is a dangerous place - particularly for people trying to make a positive difference.
Much like most American teens, Sophie isn't overly thrilled about spending her summer at the bonobo sanctuary, but she agrees to do so. Her mother and father divorced years ago over her mother's ambition to save these animals and secretly Sophie would just like to see them work this out. Her mother refused to leave the Congo, her father refused to leave the states. However, on her journey to the sanctuary on a crowded street in Kinshasa, Otto comes into her life. He's an infant bonobo and in bad shape. Sophie learns quickly that life isn't always about taking care of yourself, sometimes - most of the time - it's about caring for someone else.
Yet, despite Sophie being able to save Otto from a trader, peace does not enter her world. A civil war revolution breaks out in the Congo during her time there and the sanctuary is attacked. Her mother is gone working on releasing adult bonobos into the wild, and Sophie won't leave Otto to be rescued by the UN. She finds her caught between a deadly conflict and learning what it means to seek safety, to survive.
Overall, the novel it well-written and easy to follow. It's on The Battle of the Books list for both Middle and High School for the 2015-2016 school year. I think teens would be wise to take in the lessons of what it means to truly have struggles - self-imposed or not. Eliot Schrefer takes the reader on tumultuous journey of what one is willing to do to live and the sacrifices one is willing to make to help others. Add to this the devastating geography of the Congo and the war-torn lives of the people and it's a book for all ages.
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