From School Library Journal
*Starred Review* Gr 7-10–With authenticity, insight, and compassion, Perkins delivers another culturally rich coming-of-age novel. Two teens on opposing sides of ethnic conflict in modern-day Burma (Myanmar) tell an intertwined story that poignantly reveals the fear, violence, prejudice, and hardships they both experience. Chiko, a quiet, studious student whose medical doctor father has been arrested as a traitor, is seized by the government and forced into military training. Chiko is groomed for guerrilla warfare against the Karenni, a Burmese minority group living in villages and refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border. After he and his patrol stumble into land mines, Tu Reh, an angry Karenni and rebel fighter, must decide whether or not to save him. Tu Reh's home was destroyed by Burmese soldiers, and he struggles with his conscience and his desire for revenge and independence. Both Chiko and Tu Reh are caught in a conflict that neither fully understands. Family, friendships, and loyalty have shaped their lives. But as young soldiers, they face harrowing situations, profound suffering, and life-and-death decisions. Both boys learn the meaning of courage. Chiko and Tu Reh are dynamic narrators whose adolescent angst and perspectives permeate the trauma of their daily lives. Dialogue and descriptions are vibrant; characters are memorable; cultural characteristics are smoothly incorporated; and the story is well paced. Perkins has infused her narrative with universal themes that will inspire readers to ponder humanitarian issues, reasons for ethnic conflict, and the effects of war. The author's notes provide helpful background information on Burmese history and the ongoing military regime's repression of minorities.–Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC α(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
When 15-year-old Chiko is pressed into military service by the Burmese government, he finds himself involved in an ongoing war with the Karenni people, one of the many ethnic minorities in modern Burma. A scholar, not a soldier, Chiko soon gets wounded and finds himself at the mercy of Tu Reh, an angry Karenni boy only slightly older than he is. Will these two teens, who should be natural enemies, find a way to friendship? Perkins' latest novel—told in the individual voices of the two boys—explores that possibility while introducing a considerable amount of factual and contextual information about present-day Burma. Though occasionally didactic and a bit preachy, this is nevertheless a story that invites discussion of the realities of warfare rooted in long-standing antagonism and unreasoning hatred of “the other.” A particularly good book for classroom use. Grades 5-8. --Michael Cart