This review and others are posted at Inspiring Insomnia.
Hostage Three is one of Publisher Weekly’s best Children’s/YA books of 2013, and I get it. Along with the other books on the list that I’ve read (Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, Rose Under Fire, and Reality Boy), it’s IMPORTANT and it has THINGS TO SAY.
Amy’s father is rich. Rich, as in, “Hey, let’s take my beautiful yacht and go sail around the world” rich. Spoiled, sullen, surly Amy is reluctantly dragged along. She hates everything, especially her stepmother who stepped into the family way too soon after Amy’s mother’s death. Amy’s only source of happiness is one of the cute Somali pirates who captures the yacht at gunpoint and terrorizes everyone on board. Say what?
Farouz, the cute pirate gives Amy (and us) a history of Somali piracy. The author tries hard to paint the pirates in a sympathetic light: They’re not actually pirates, they’re members of the Somali “Coast Guard” – they guard the coast, get it? They never intend to actually kill the people they kidnap, so don’t pay attention to those big, scary weapons pointed in your direction. And really, if you’re unlucky enough to find yourself a captive of Somalis, just pay the $5 million ransom so you can all go on your merry way. It was a nice try, but I don’t know what Lake could have written to persuade me that people who kidnap and rob and terrorize and murder are worthy of sympathy. And yes, that includes the swoon-worthy Farouz who justifies his actions by claiming it’s the only way to raise the money to get his brother out of prison. Farouz tells Amy he won’t hurt her or family, but he seems to forget that the rest of his gang don’t have the same reservations, particularly the one who makes it clear he intends to sexually assault Amy. Farouz can use his imprisoned bother in an attempt to claim to the moral high ground, but he chose to go into the piracy business with these murderous people.
Readers who have a hard time swallowing insta-love scenarios will have a lot to rage about here. Amy doesn’t seem to fully grasp the danger of her predicament, as she’s more concerned with sneaking around the yacht to kiss and cuddle with Farouz. When her father finds out what’s going on, he’s not happy. Do you blame him? But Amy accuses her father of racism because he’s not delighted over the prospect of his daughter being in love with the guy who could murder them all at any moment. I suspect that is Dad’s bigger concern.
Aside from Amy’s ridiculously hard to believe romance with Farouz, the book focuses on Amy’s attempt to come to terms with the death of her mother. This part of the story was quite moving, and it was a shame that it was overshadowed by Farouz. I wish the author would have torpedoed the romance; he could still have painted the pirates in a positive, sympathetic light without, and my eyes wouldn’t have to hurt from rolling around in my head so much.
Incidentally, earlier this year, I read a memoir called Impossible Odds by an American woman who was kidnapped and held captive for three months while doing aid work in Somalia. She was eventually rescued by Seal Team Six, and her awful, harrowing story is likely much more representative of the actual Somali kidnap-ee experience. (Hint – there was no romance.)