Dead Boys' Club by Geoffrey Malone

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Dead Boys' Club by Geoffrey Malone

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Powerful story about child soldiers in Africa. A strong narrative and sympathetic central character is supported by an accurate and unsettling backdrop involving African governance and aid agencies.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: May 2013
Publisher: Hodder
ISBN: 0340999608

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Sam wakes up one morning at dawn. It's strangely quiet. Outside his hut, the village is absolutely silent. No cockerels are crowing. Something is horribly wrong. Stepping outside, Sam's worst fears are realised. A line of children, all armed with AK-47s, are rushing at him, yelling like crazy. It's God's Freedom Army.

Within hours, the strongest children are rounded up, Sam among them, and marched away for training. Left behind is a desolate village and so, so many bodies. Sam knows that his mother and sisters are dead. He'll never see them again. But his father, a soldier in the regular army, is still alive. And so he clings on to hope throughout his initiation under the crazed Colonel Dada. If he can survive the training, the missions, the drugs, perhaps one day he and his father will be reunited. The same isn't true for Kito. He has no-one to go home to. So it's down to Sam to keep Kito's hope alive...

There are about a quarter of a million child soldiers fighting in conflicts across the globe. Probably half of them are in Africa. Shocking, isn't it? You might not think it's a story for tweens and early teens, but I do. And they do, too. Kids understand and care about much more than we give them credit for. And I think they're wiser than many adults. We groan and moan because they're not interested in the soap operas of domestic party politics. But kids are political animals. It's just that their interests are more wide-ranging. They care about political issues. They don't care about the Westminster Village.

And here's where I think Dead Boys' Club is a winner. Sam is a great central character, very sympathetic, and his story is tense, impactful and extremely well told. But Malone introduces political elements into the narrative. He shows the backroom deals between governments and aid agencies. He acknowledges corruption and he explains the roles played by diplomats and foreign mercenaries. Readers of this book will come away with an understanding, not just of the plight of child soldiers, but also of the complex background surrounding them. And I guarantee you that these - young - readers will get it. Really get it.

I loved this book and I'm sure da yoof will, too. Don't underestimate them.

For children who like reading issue-based books, child soldiers are also explored in Chalkline by Jane Mitchell and this time the setting is Kashmir. Children used in forced labour is written about powerfully in Lost Riders by Elizabeth Laird and Bitter Chocolate by Sally Grindley.

Buy Dead Boys' Club by Geoffrey Malone at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dead Boys' Club by Geoffrey Malone at

Buy Dead Boys' Club by Geoffrey Malone at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Dead Boys' Club by Geoffrey Malone at


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