Amazing is the only way I can describe this novel in one word. It’s a very intense, suspense- and action-filled coming-of-age story that is a character study as well as a thriller. It’s told in first person by seventeen-year-old Isaiah, and if you’re expecting a high school drama or similar, you’ll not find that between the pages of this book. Instead there is an incredible tale of a youthful error leading to kidnapping, cruelty, and international conflict. But it is also the story of Isaiah changing and growing from a somewhat sullen and stubborn teenager into a thoughtful young man who begins to realize that his actions have consequences and not all decisions made by his parents and other adults are as easy as they look.
Isaiah is in deep trouble after he decided to protect a friend by pretending the gun he was caught with belonged to him. Sure, he had his reasons, but in typical teenage fashion he did not think things through, and lack of life experience means he didn’t look at al the angles. As a consequence, and to avoid a prison sentence that could easily ruin the rest of his life, Isaiah’s mother argues the authorities into sending Isaiah to stay with his “do-gooder” father in Africa as a sort of severe version of community service. All Isaiah sees is the hardship of having to spend time with a man who seems to have forgotten him. A man he hasn’t spoken to or heard from in ten years, ever since Isaiah and his mother returned to the US.
Nothing is as expected when Isaiah arrives in Cameroon. His father doesn’t even bother to pick him up from the airport, sending one of his assistants, eighteen-year-old Henry, instead. Since Henry idolizes Isaiah’s father (for good reasons, as I found out later), Isaiah initially dislikes Henry on principle and they do not get off to a good start. But that changes when they are kidnapped by a group of armed men who demand they hand over “the canisters”. Isaiah and Henry have n idea what is going on and end up depending on each other for survival. And that is much harder than it sounds because Isaiah is diabetic and the mercenaries refuse to hand over his insulin.
What follows is a hair-raising story of hidden agendas, revelations, and a fight for survival that nobody should have to face – and especially not two teenagers. Isaiah goes through hell – physically, mentally, and emotionally - as he struggles to figure out what is going on and how to save himself. Henry becomes a lot more important to him as the story develops, but nothing comes easy these two young men.
If you like emotionally intense stories with twists ad turns that might shock you, if you prefer your romances to be slow-burn and well-meshed with action and adventure suspenseful enough for a Jason Bourne movie, and if you’re looking for a read that puts a struggling teenager through the wringer to have him come out the other side a young man, then you will probably like this novel as much as do. It’s as wild as it is edgy and an excellent example of young adult fiction that tells it as it is.
See the full review here.