This book cut deep, very few books make me want to cry, throw things and feel disgusted all at once. You can't help but feel sorry for the author, he lost everything, his family, friends, home... you can't help but cry at the images of these people being killed, the descriptions of what went on in his area of the country. And you can't help but be angry at the author when he describes killing someone, almost gleefully - yet... you have to remind yourself that he was 12. He was really given no real choice other than death for himself. This story pulled me in and in the end, I felt sad for him now, he's still only 25 or so, the horror he must relive... I just cannot imagine.
I hope there is a second memoir. I was disappointed that we didn't find out how he got out of Guinea to the United States and how he got through the next 6 years of his life.
I found this book hard to put down since I kept waiting for things to improve for Ishmael. The end was so simple that I felt a bit let down but this is a memoir and real life rarely results in a nice, little package. His accounts of wartime actions were honest and to the point which included many horrific killings. I did not find it excessively violent but rather descriptive enough that you could understand his life during that time. I would love to hear more about Ishmael's transition to life in America which I am sure was extremely difficult. Another great book to read if you like a child's perspective on wartime is "First They killed my Father."
Reviewed by Rachel - The Class for TeensReadToo.com
Imagine, you live in a village; you know, the ones without electricity and plumbing? You get water from the river for your mother so she can cook dinner but, when you come back, the village is ablaze and everyone is running. Not just running in one direction but everywhere; screaming, yelling, falling down dead.
This is what causes Ishmael Beah's childhood to be lost.
Beah starts out as a quiet, peace-loving boy who suddenly is on the run from all the destruction and terror with his older brother, Junior, and some friends. After months of wandering on paths and in the forest, they come to a farm outside of a village. Beah finds out his family is in the village and as a group they start walking. Then the rebels attack and his family is dead.
Torn, tired, and angry, Beah will eventually lose everything he cared about; his family, his health (both mentally and physically), and almost his life. As a boy soldier recruited by the Sierra Leone Army he changes drastically. Drugs, energy stimulants, and other illegal acts (in the United States) cause him to kill without thinking, never even cringing at the sight of death and basically causing him to feel almost inhuman.
A LONG WAY GONE is Ishmael Beah's memoir based on his experiences and the tragic events of his life. I loved this book because it was a huge eye-opener about the war in Sierra Leone and how it affected everyone, even children. I also believe that everyone should read this book at least once in their life time. Maybe then people can help those who have become boy soldiers or anyone affected by a war. Maybe A LONG WAY GONE could change the world, make it a more peaceful place; that is what I hope can happen.
It is out of character for me to pick up something as deep as this book - I'm strictly a fiction kind of gal, but I was compelled to read this story. It was very emotionally difficult to get through, but I am so glad that I did. Read about the life of Ishmael Bael in the civil war of Sierra Leone touched me deeply, as well as opened my eyes to the trials facing children in other areas of the world. It is well worth the detour from my typical fiction books. I've bought the book for family members since. Highly recommend.
Although the story he tells is remarkable and the author is clearly a person to be admired, I had unanswered questions after finishing this book. It seems that within a few pages the author goes from being a sociopathic yet naive killer to being a model student. I wish this book would have gotten me inside his head more during this period of time. What changes in his thoughts and heart took place? At what moment in time was he able to see the world and other people differently, and what were his feelings at the time? Despite that, this book is still worth reading because the author and his experiences are so unique.