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Johnny Mad Dog: A Novel Hardcover – April 20, 2005
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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From Publishers Weekly
Two teenagers are caught up in the melee as rival ethnic factions turn their Congolese city into a bloody battleground in this harrowing novel by Dongala (Little Boys Come from the Stars, etc.). Laokolé, a bright girl of 16 who dreams of one day becoming an engineer, flees home ahead of the marauding militias. With her younger brother and legless mother (whom she pushes in a wheelbarrow), she struggles not only to stay alive but to sustain her hopes for the future. Alternate chapters give readers the boastful voice of 15-year-old Johnny Mad Dog, a member of the Death Dealers militia, as he patrols the city with his Uzi, looting, raping and killing, eager to prove himself a man. Dongala, a native of the Congo Republic (formerly French Congo), offers an unflinching look at the greed and ignorance that drives fighters like Mad Dog, as well as the fear, desperation and anger of those trapped in the cross fire. Despite occasional wooden dialogue and the rather stagey showdown between the two narrators, Dongala frames some powerful questions: namely, how humans can be so cruel, and conversely, how do they maintain their humanity in the face of unremitting ugliness? As Mad Dog himself half-marvels, half-laments, "even if we looted them a thousand times, they would always manage to hang onto something." (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
This novel of civil war in West Africahas two teen narrators, and while both are more eloquent and grown-up in their thinking than seems possible, that barely detracts from the story's devastating power. The first storyteller is the eponymous Johnny, a child soldier serving in an irregular militia whose side has just won power. Johnny fancies himself an intellectual, but he constantly muddles history, and he struggles endlessly to think of an appropriately ruthless nickname for himself. The second narrator, Laokole, tells the same tale of murder, rape, and devastation that Johnny does but from a different perspective: that of a 16-year-old girl who just wants to save her younger brother and legless mother from the violence. A good student who wants to attend university, Laokole's journey of survival is particularly gut-wrenching because it alternates with Johnny's pathetic, adolescent evilness. At the beginning, Laokole wants to be an engineer; by the end, she wishes to be an astronaut. It's a magnificent symbol for Laokole's coming-of-age; her world, it seems, cannot be rebuilt--only escaped. John Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
Johnny Mad Dog is a confused little "Militia soldier" who thinks he is educated and intellectual. He thinks he knows what he's doing and that he knows what's best, when in fact, he is corrupted, arrogant, and ignorant. He is a 16-year old who even rapes a full grown woman and murders because he can.
Laokolé is the little girl with the heart of an older woman. All she wants is to keep her family together. The fact that her mother is in a wheelbarrow doesn't stop her from doing so. Later on throughout the book, she is forced to separate from her mother because she is slowing them down from fleeing. Even though people advise her to leave her mother, still, she won't. Her own mother knows that she is a burden to her children and begs for them to leave her behind. When the wheelbarrow breaks, she manages to carry her mother with a bicycle. This shows just how dedicated she is to stick with her mother until the end. Along their path of fleeing the country, her brother is separated from her so she is left alone to push the mother's wheelbarrow. Their father was shot when the rebel militias burst into their home and tried to rape her mother, they then shot her mother and she was left with one working leg.
It took me a while to get into the book at first. It was too brutal and blunt right from the start. That was a set back for me and I immediately put the book down for a few weeks before picking it up again. When I did eventually pick up the book again, I realized that I had to prepare myself because it wasn't like the books I'm used to reading on a regular basis. There was much more cursing than I expected and a lot of vulgarity. It was really fast paced, a violent novel that moved quickly. These rebel militias killed innocent children, raped women and even forced them to kill their family members.
The story was believable, but the plot was predicable. The book was written in first person. Each chapter alternated the voice of either Laokolé or Johnny Mad Dog.
Although this book was a good read, the character's voices didn't haunt me when I was not reading the book, and I was not left thinking about the book when I was done.
I thought it would have, given that it was about Congo, but I didn't have that strong connection with the characters.
I'm not exactly sure what it was, but there was something missing. I would say that the weakness would be that it was a little bit too predictable at the end and the language was little unrealistic at times. I found myself thinking, "Congolese don't talk like that!" The book was first written in French then translated to English, so it could be that the divine message was lost in translation. I think I will buy the French copy and read it to compare the two. Maybe the French copy will have a greater impact on me.
By re-reading the novel, I was amazed at how the life and activities of Africa's child soldiers (whether it be in Sierra Leone,Sudan,the Congo,Uganda or as this novel hints at Anywhere Africa), are accurately and terribly but also pitifully depicted. The brain of Johnny Mad Dog,a teenage rebel soldier saturated with violence and murder contrasted with the brain of Laokole,a teenage girl who witnessed and tried to avoid that violence. To her this absurdity of war did not make sense and sometimes she couldn't believe it was really happening. Rebel militias invade villages,abduct children as young as 6 or 7, force them to kill their family members under pain of torture or death,then train them to become soldiers and finally drug them,threaten them and force them to kill. Sometimes it is vice versa where government armies also train children as soldiers to kill the rebels. The consciouseness of the world now is aroused hopefully in knowing what is going on in these parts of the world with child soldiers dubbed as Invisible Children. The French made film "Johnny Mad Dog" is also a hit to many.It is remarkable in that many of the actors needed little rehearsals because they were actually former child soldiers! Unfortunately,no DVD of this movie is available in Region 1 which I believe includes the U.S.A. However you can view some of it in YouTube under Invisible Children. It is hoped that these "invisible children" would now become visible. Johnny Mad Dog is a fast-paced violent novel but authentic in its form,has happened or still happening.
Like CSI, there was so much blood and guts that one became innured to it early on. it became a little predicatble, Africans gone wild killing each other while whites helicopter in for a photo shoot. As such it lacked much of the simmering outrage against Western Aid of "Capetown to Cairo". Are we to belive that all Amero-Europeans are superficial gawkers in swell transport while all Africans are helpless victims of both their own violence and the West's desire for entertainment?
That being said, the book did keep one's attention is sort of a movie-like way and even though the various outcomes were predictable, one could not wait for his worst fears regarding the main charaters to be realizied, but in a palatable form. Maybe literature is generally devolving into a screenplay; this book seemed to be