Endangered by Eliot Schrefer
Sophie isn’t exactly thrilled to be spending her summer in the Congo at her mother’s bonobo sanctuary. It’s not that she doesn’t want to spend time with her mom, it’s just that bonobos aren’t her passion, their her mom’s.
When Sophie is approached by a ragged-looking man on the way to meet her mother at the sanctuary, she knows she shouldn’t stop, shouldn’t speak to the man. But the very small, very hurt baby bonobo that is caged on the back of the man’s bike makes her think twice. She knows she should just keep moving, but instead she hands over all the money she has and takes the baby bonobo with her to the sanctuary.
Her mother isn’t happy about Sophie’s interaction with a poacher, but she’s happy that her daughter saved the small creature. Before long, Sophie finds herself spending day and night with bonobo which she named Otto. Otto has become Sophie’s friend, companion even. And Sophie, his.
But when civil war breaks out, and people are being killed left and right by machete wielding revolutionists, Sophie is forced to leave the Congo and her beloved Otto behind. There’s just one problem: she refuses. So when the revolutionists take over the now destroyed sanctuary, Sophie and Otto escape into the wild with the other, adult bonobos.
What was supposed to be a fun, relaxing summer vacation spent with her mother has now turned into a summer where Sophie is forced, not only to fight to fight for the life of Otto, but for her own. Will Sophie survive the wilds of the Congo, or will she and Otto be taken by the revolutionists?
National Book Award Finalist Endangered, written by author Eliot Schrefer, is a story that is about so much more than a girl and her bond to a young bonobo monkey. It’s a story of survival, one that is often bleak – more so than any post-apocalyptic, dystopian novel – yet hopeful.
Schrefer’s writing is sophisticated and smart. Through his writing, main character Sophie’s voice is real. Through her thoughts and insights readers learn more and more about the girl she really is, the fears that she harbors and her will to overcome. Admittedly though, Sophie’s voice felt older than a typical fourteen year old’s voice. But the situation Sophie has found herself is, makes her grow up quickly.
Schrefer’s descriptions are vivid and lush. Readers will easily be able to understand the Congo and the state in which it is in. His portrayal of a country in the midst of civil war is terrifying, but above all things it’s honest. At times scarier than any war-time news story, readers will understand fully what life in the Congo is like. Because of this, Endangered is a book that readers will, not only enjoy for the high tension and the action packed plot, but for the lessons they will learn from in.
In addition to his portrayal of a war-torn country, Schrefer’s portrayal of Sophie and Otto’s relationship is sincere and heartwarming. Like any two best friends, readers will see that their relationship is built on more that just trying to stay alive. It’s based upon trust, a balance of give and take, and above all else love.
What I personally loved as a reader is that Endangered shows readers of all ages that the human spirit can soar high and persevere in the face of adversity and danger.
Schrefer’s Endangered is an exceptional read. Readers who pick up this book will fall instantly in love with the characters that fill the pages, will be engaged by the action packed race to save a life, and ultimately will be moved by the compassion in which the story is told.