Amy Fields is a poor little rich girl trying to get her daddy’s attention. Her mother committed suicide and her father immersed himself in work and then got remarried. Amy acts out by getting facial piercings, smoking during a final exam and go to clubs all night. Her father buys a yacht and decides to take the family on a round-the-world sailing trip. Amy is naturally resistant and petulant during most of the trip. Then along the coast of Somalia they are kidnapped by pirates. The Somali pirates, or Coast Guard as they call themselves, don’t want to hurt the passengers they just want a ransom.
The strength of this novel was in the characterizations of the pirates and Amy’s coming to terms with her mother. The pirates are not shown as villainous, evil men. They are shown as people just trying to make a living in a war torn nation with no economy and no jobs. Nick Lake does a great job of making them human and contrasting their living situations with those of the Fields. While this doesn’t excuse their behavior, it does give them a more human aspect and shows that to them this is just a job and everything has a value.
The novel also shows how this forced confinement forces Amy into coming to terms with her mother. Her mother suffered from OCD and severe depression and her life was not easy. Amy tended to gloss over the bad times and just remember the mom she wanted to remember. She never faced up to the fact that her mom called her before she jumped from a roof and basically told her what she was going to do. Amy starts to remember the good times and the bad times with her mom and she starts to make peace with her. She also starts making peace with her father and realizes her stepmother might not be the horrible person she thought she was.
I think the weakness of this novel is the relationship that develops between Amy and Farouz. Farouz is a young translator for the pirates and it is through him that we learn about life in Somalia. It is through his stories we learn about the endless wars that have ravaged the country. How his parents were killed in front of him, about how he and his brother fled Mogadishu and what his brother did for him so they could survive. He is a pirate so he can earn enough money to free his brother from jail. We also learn how piracy was born in Somalia and why so many of its men are pirates. Amy and Farouz are attracted to each other and during the captivity they become closer and closer. They are clearly not on equal ground however as Amy’s life is in the hands of Farouz and the other pirates. I found this relationship distasteful and unbelievable. I didn’t see the emotional connection or believe they would be relaxed enough in their environment to meet as often as they did. I don’t think the seriousness and danger of the situations was as accurately portrayed as it could have been. The good thing is that neither of them really believe the relationship is going anywhere; there is no future for them as much as they might dream of one.
Despite my issues with the book, this was a gripping, gritty read. I wanted to know how it was going to end because we kept getting hints and flashes of the outcome. This is not a happily ever after kind of story, but it is a happier now than before kind of story (for most of the characters). I appreciate the realness of the story and its ending.
I received a copy of this book from both Netgalley and ALA 2013.