A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a boy soldier by Ishmael Beah...a review
Ishmael Beah was forced to leave his childhood at the age of 12, the day that his and surrounding villages were attacked in Sierra Leone. Ishmael's family was broken, split by the initial raids. He and some other young boys in the same situation attached themselves together as they struggled to figure out what was going on and how they were going to survive. While the exact time line of Ishmael's experiences are not documented day by day, it would be impossible for the reader to misunderstand the overwhelming severity of what Ishmael and so many others in his position went through.
More than half of the book shows Ishmael just trying to survive in his upturned world. He went from practicing rap and dance routines with his friends one day to raiding villages for supplies and killing rebels. He, and so many other young boy soldiers, were brainwashed and functioned on a concoction of cocaine and gun powder in order to be exactly what the "army" expected, without question...essentially fighting a war they didn't even understand.
A Long Way Gone in some ways is similar to the experiences of the Lost Boys who fled from Sudan to escape the civil war in their country. God Grew Tired of Us (link to trailer) is both a book and movie that documents that specific situation. A Long Way Gone also shares some similarities with those caught up in the tensions between the Hutu and the Tutsi peoples in Rwanda. This clash is shown in the viscerally intense film, Hotel Rwanda (link to trailer). Both films, without a doubt, are a necessity for people to see and understand what is really going on around our world, and I don't feel like I could talk about A Long Way Gone without mentioning the shared relationships portrayed in each one of these stories.
Read this book...it is worth it.