LET’S GO SWIMMING ON DOOMSDAY
Written by Natalie C Anderson
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, January 15, 2019
My star rating: 5 stars!
When Abdi’s family is kidnapped, he’s forced to do the unthinkable: become a child soldier with the ruthless jihadi group Al Shabaab. In order to save the lives of those he loves, and earn their freedom, Abdi agrees to be embedded as a spy within the militia’s ranks and to send dispatches on their plans to the Americans. The jihadists trust Abdi immediately because his older brother, Dahir, is already one of them, protégé to General Idris, aka the Butcher. If Abdi’s duplicity is discovered, he will be killed.
For weeks, Abdi trains with them, witnessing atrocity after atrocity, becoming a monster himself, wondering if he’s even pretending anymore. He only escapes after he is forced into a suicide bomber’s vest, which still leaves him stumps where two of his fingers used to be and his brother near death. Eventually, he finds himself on the streets of Sangui City, Kenya, stealing what he can find to get by, sleeping nights in empty alleyways, wondering what’s become of the family that was stolen from him. But everything changes when Abdi’s picked up for a petty theft, which sets into motion a chain reaction that forces him to reckon with a past he’s been trying to forget. Find it on Goodreads
As soon as I saw the GORGEOUS cover and read the synopsis – I knew that this would be a book that would leave a lasting impact. I wasn’t wrong! This book FAR exceeded my expectations! I read a book by this author before. It was called City of Saints and Thieves (Find that review here) and I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t perfect, but there were a few things that she did really well. I loved her writing, the dimensions and completeness of her characters, her setting descriptions – and she actually made me enjoy a mystery! So I was very excited to read this novel!
Almost immediately I was attached to this book. I picked it up with the intention to read a couple chapters……. before I knew it, a few hours had passed and I had read half the book! The writing sucked me in from the first page and made me desperate to know more!
I will admit that the beginning of the book was a little disorienting and hard to keep track of. We follow Abdi in multiple points in his life. We see him now, after he was strapped to a suicide bomber vest, the point where he became a child soldier, the time he was kidnapped – all the while we saw flashbacks to his childhood. I struggled with this through the first 100 pages or so…. there was so much to learn about him, his life and his family. But, in the end, this was a VERY effective way to demonstrate his struggles and what made him who he is. The character development that was allowed through this format was absolutely phenomenal! Not only for Abdi, but for all the characters involved. We get to see them at different points in their lives and how certain events shaped them.
Abdi as a character was so full of emotion. He’s a good kid. He just wanted a happy quiet life with his family. But when his brother was taken from school by “The Boys” and wasn’t heard from again, he feared the worst. Then him and his family are kidnapped, and he’s given a ray of hope. He finds that his brother is actually alive. But all hope is taken away when he’s given a choice….. him and his whole family dies unless he agrees to be a spy and join The Boys…. which should be easy because his brother is now one of the leaders of this group. Obviously not much of a choice there.
This is where Abdi’s struggles really begin. He’s trying to find out where his brothers loyalties lie while also trying to find that brotherhood connection they had as children. But worst of all is that he’s forced to do things that he could never imagine. He’s forced to serve, train, kill, and torture. He’s turning into the person he’s feared his whole life, just to save his family.
Then there’s also the relationships that he forms after he gains his freedom. He’s seen some awful things and has no clue who he can trust. Like I said, he’s a really great kid who is soft and kind hearted. He wants so badly to be able to trust and look forward to planning a future. I can’t explain just how much I loved the characters and their development in this book!
I also need to mention that the pacing in this book was non stop. There was so much that happened that built up to a larger picture. I finished this book in 2 sittings because I was so immersed I lost all track of time. This wasn’t an easy read though. If you’re triggered by war, murder, rape, torture, and all thing in between, this might not be for you. But the message that this book conveys is well worth the discomfort.
I honestly can’t recommend this book enough!!! It was SO good and SO well written! Thank you so much to Penguin Random House Canada for the opportunity to read and review this novel. This does not influence my opinion. All thoughts and opinions within this review are my own and uninfluenced.
Until next time, happy reading!