For a fast-paced, suspenseful, and engaging read, Nick Lake’s Hostage Three won’t disappoint.  That Lake was the Winner of the 2013 Printz Award is apparent in his writing style—which captivates with its pacing and imagery-richness.

The book’s protagonist is seventeen-year-old Amy Fields fromLondon.  Struggling to deal with her mothers’ death and craving her father’s attention, Amy has taken acting out to a self-destructive level: swearing at teachers, taking drugs, insulting her parents, going to all-night parties, and intentionally failing her high school exit exams.  Hoping to block out the world or simply wishing to disappear, she is snarky, sullen, defiant, and without charming personality quirks.

Looking for something therapeutic and expecting to carve out some quality family time, Amy’s dad, James Fields, buys a luxury yacht for an around-the-world cruise.  Although Amy is determined to hate the trip, the sea begins to mesmerize her, helping her forget about the past.  That brief calm is shattered when their boat is boarded by gun-wielding pirates who demand a hefty ransom and reduce the passengers to labels: Amy is Hostage Three.

From one of their captors, Farouz, a young Somalian, Amy ironically learns about love and family loyalty.  She also learns to look at life and circumstances from another perspective, one without luxury but rooted in survival, one where desperate times call for desperate measures.  Once she learns Farouz’s story, once she understands his motives, she grows to hate him less and less until she wonders if she loves him: “I knew it was probably quite easy to fall in love with someone who had taken you hostage.  Because you got used to saying the things they wanted to hear, the things that would keep you alive.  You got used to pleasing them, which meant you were always thinking about what they might think, about what was in their minds, instead of what was in your own mind. . . . That looks a lot like love, from a certain angle” (275-276).

In Farouz, Amy finds a kindred spirit—someone who makes her feel alive, who shares her love for music, and who also intimately knows loss.  From this connection, a convoluted but forbidden relationship grows, one with an unexpected outcome.

Besides being well-written and engaging, Lake’s book accomplishes several other important purposes:

  • Reveals the intricate complexity of human relationships
  • Shares the truth that story is a means of connection.  When we hear people’s stories, when we share intimate aspects of self and tribe and culture, when we accept new ways of knowing, we pierce the balloons of old thought to allow prejudice to dissipate.
  • Provides hope that order might exist under the chaos of life, offering reassurance and possibility to those who feel lost, broken, and defeated.

After reading Lake’s book, I will never look at the stars the same again.  I also found pleasure in learning a little something about Somalian politics, culture, and economics.

  • Posted by Donna

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