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Book Review – Hostage Three

November 20, 2013

hostage three

Hostage Three by Nick Lakerelease date November 12, 2013

Nick Lake’s title character (real name – Amy Fields) has a privileged life, living in an affluent London suburb with her workaholic father and stepmother.  When Amy gets expelled from school right before she is supposed to sit for her very last exam, her father decides to buy a yacht and plans a trip around the world.  Although Amy is skeptical that her father can take himself away from work long enough to embark on the trip, the family sets sail aboard the Daisy May in July.  They are accompanied by a crew of three, including the captain, the cook, and a guide who also specializes in navigating the pirate laden waters near the coast of Somalia.  Despite these precautions, the Daisy May comes under attack from a group of pirates.

Amy is terrified as the pirates board the ship, amid yelling, shooting, and general confusion.  Most of the pirates speak Somali, but there is one young pirate with grey eyes (the same color as Amy) that speaks almost flawless English.  The pirates settle in on the yacht waiting for the ransom deal to be negotiated, and they give the passengers designated names to make the situation less personal – Hostage One is Amy’s father, Hostage Two is her stepmother, and she is Hostage Three.  In the close quarters of the Daisy May however, Amy and Farouz find themselves getting to know one another.  The attraction between them is as involuntary as it is incongruous, both of them seeming to know it could lead to trouble.  As their friendship advances, Amy and Farouz discover shared pain despite completely different circumstances in life.  Behind the affluent lifestyle, Amy has had to deal with the secret pain of her mother’s trouble life and eventual death, as well as her father’s immersion in his work and quick remarriage.  Farouz tells about life with his parents who were both killed in one of Somalia’s many wars, how his older brother saved him, how he is working to earn enough money to free his brother from prison.  The tension between hoping for a happy outcome for both Amy and Farouz is balanced against the extreme danger of the situation at almost every turn.

In Hostage Three, as in 2012’s Printz award-winning In Darkness, Nick Lake has a talent for bringing headlines to life through his character driven stories.  Using Amy as a sometimes unreliable narrator, he is able to weave present events and past events (along with an alternate ending) into a seamless narrative.  Amy’s mother comes to life through Amy’s memories, which are interspersed throughout the story as both flashback and stories shared with Farouz.  The story is rife with issues such as social equality, the randomness of wealth and poverty, mental illness.

Ultimately though, this story is about love, abandonment, and forgiveness.  Will the occupants of the Daisy May, passengers and pirates alike, survive?  Will Amy and Farouz be able to forgive themselves for their perceived guilt they carry about the fate of their family members?  Will they be able to overcome the circumstances that surround their love and have a happy ending?  These are the questions that will keep you reading this compelling story.  I definitely recommend this book to grade 9 and up.

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