Title: Let’s Go Swimming on Doomsday
Author: Natalie C. Anderson
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: January 15, 2019
Number of Pages: 352
Genre: Young Adult Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, Historical
Forced to become a child soldier, a sixteen-year-old Somali refugee must confront his painful past in this haunting, thrilling tale of loss and redemption for fans of A Long Way Gone and What is the What
When Abdi’s family is kidnapped, he’s forced to do the unthinkable: become a child soldier with the ruthless jihadi group Al Shabaab. In order to save the lives of those he loves, and earn their freedom, Abdi agrees to be embedded as a spy within the militia’s ranks and to send dispatches on their plans to the Americans. The jihadists trust Abdi immediately because his older brother, Dahir, is already one of them, protégé to General Idris, aka the Butcher. If Abdi’s duplicity is discovered, he will be killed.
For weeks, Abdi trains with them, witnessing atrocity after atrocity, becoming a monster himself, wondering if he’s even pretending anymore. He only escapes after he is forced into a suicide bomber’s vest, which still leaves him stumps where two of his fingers used to be and his brother near death. Eventually, he finds himself on the streets of Sangui City, Kenya, stealing what he can find to get by, sleeping nights in empty alleyways, wondering what’s become of the family that was stolen from him. But everything changes when Abdi’s picked up for a petty theft, which sets into motion a chain reaction that forces him to reckon with a past he’s been trying to forget.
In this riveting, unflinching tale of sacrifice and hope, critically-acclaimed author Natalie C. Anderson delivers another tour-de-force that will leave readers at the edge of their seats.
**Thank you so much Penguin Random House for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and for the eARC. These, by any means, did not affect nor influence my review.**
HARD, SENSITIVE & IMPORTANT TOPICS
Let’s Go Swimming on Doomsday tackles issues which, I personally feel, is not being talked about in YA a lot. It tackles terrorism, religious extremism, terrorist groups’ abduction and recruitment/use of children as soldiers and young girls as their “wives”, government’s actions in stopping/fighting them, the trauma these circumstances give, and shows the painful reality which usually happens in third-world countries. I know it is not an easy topic to talk and read about. I requires more than just courage to do so. But I strongly believe that recognizing and talking about this issue is just the first step in solving this world-wide problem.
Aside from those it is also about loving and sacrificing for your family, being a victim of people in power, helping and accepting your friends for what they were and have become, coping with trauma, respecting other people’s boundaries, people who wish for the world to be a better place but have different ways of doing so and a child who had to shoulder problems caused by other people and the society. In general, this is about humanity and the problems it is facing out of so many.
POV and SETTINGS
This is written on Abdiweli’s point of view and is set on two different timelines: then, when he was still a child – before and after he was kidnapped and blackmailed to spy on the terrorist group Al Shabaab which is set on Somalia and now, when his job as a spy was finally done and is now facing the traumas of all the things he was forced to went through, which is set on Kenya.
REALISTIC CHARACTERS OWNING DIFFERENT STORIES
The characters each tell a different story of their own and no one was portrayed as perfect. They all feel realistic for me. This is the story of Abdi – we see how his innocence was taken when he was kidnapped and tortured by Americans. He is such a strong character whom I just want to wrap in a tight big hug. He did not surrender, all he cared about was his family. Always his family. He is kind, never wanting to hurt anyone but will do so if it meant saving his family, and was not naive even at such a young age. I wanted to protect him.
We also have the side characters of Dahir, Sam, Bashir, Safiya, the Doctor, the Butcher, Jones, Mama Lisa, Muna, and Alice which all played equally important roles in the story. Despite Abdi being the main man, these side characters were given chance to show who they really are and what their stories are all about though not in a way Abdi did, but STILL. With them incomplete, the book would have been different.
RELATABLE & THOUGHT-PROVOKING
As someone who also lives in a third-world country, I related to some things, from my parents buying me two sizes big uniforms and shoes when I was a kid so they can be worn longer to waiting for my ass to be smacked by literally anything when I did something wrong for me to be “disciplined” which are all Asian cultures.
Different perspectives were showed – from civilians to the government and to the terrorists. Just like when I was doing my internship in the government agency which is in charge with the peace talks and stuffs regarding rebel groups in the country, this made me ponder who is the real bad and who is the real good, which are the right things and which are wrong, which should have been and should have not been done. It is just as thought-provoking as it is on real life.
The author wasn’t from Somalia and did not have the same experience with Abdi. I actually didn’t know that it wasn’t before I agreed to join the tour, but seeing the Author’s Note made me still appreciate it. This may not be an ownvoices book, I still recognize the effort and the purpose of the author in writing such a book and the strength and the bravery of all the Somalis who had survived the terrible abuse of Al Shabaab in sharing their stories with the author and the whole world. Without them this book would not be possible.
Personally, the author may be far from being Abdi, any member of his family, the Maisha girls or Safiya in real life, I actually see her as Sam, the UN social worker. Natalie C. Anderson works with United Nations on refugee relief and development mainly in Africa and I guess they may have share some similarities.
Let’s Go Swimming on Doomsday have let me in a completely different world, one which I hope does not exist but I know, sadly does. I really enjoyed the book. I loved the writing, it deeply touched my heart, I wanted to protect lots of characters and how it ended was so satisfying and genuinely made me happy. I just loved it.
This book is not for every one. It has a lot of triggers. If books with torture, kidnapping, blackmailing, rape, public punishment and deaths is something you do not or can not read, I suggest you not to read this. Otherwise, I do hope you will be able to give this book and the real owners of the stories it tells a time for them to be listened to.
Those white girls are just a few years older than me, all big eyed and soft. They think because they’ve been in Sangui CIty for five minutes that they “get” Africa. That fixing poverty or elephant poaching or whatever is just a matter of rolling up their sleeves and getting to work. They say things like, “Africa calls to me,” as if Africa is a beautiful smiling woman beckoning from a doorway. Wallahi, they’re annoying.
You can’t be afraid of the water, but you have to respect its power, my dad would say.
You’re my sun and moon, Safiya.
Healing is a process, Abdi. A delicate one. It doesn’t take much to disrupt it, to send someone back into a bad place – mentally, I mean.
I know what it’s like to be scared of something for so long that it’s seems like it’s all there is. And I know how much it helps to talk about it, even if it’s embarrassing or painful. Sometimes telling another person what’s bothering you can be like taking a weight off that you didn’t even know you were carrying.
Shitty things happen to good people, Abdi. For no good reason at all. And it’s not your fault. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that. Sometimes we need to be reminded.
It’s one thing to have stuff done to you. It’s another to be the one who does it.
The only time I don’t feel totally confused, anxious, or exhausted is when we swim. In the water, for a little while, nothing bad can touch me, and sometimes it feels like maybe I really could just float away.
Money is a means to an end, my friend.
It is a rare thing to be able to turn a fear into a source of strength.
I feel like I’m on a ship in a storm. One second I’m wild with anger, and the next I’m paralyzed with sadness. Up and down, over and over until I just want to throw myself overboard and be done with it.
I am not the match, I say to him in my mind. I was never the match, never the fire. I am the water. The weapon you fear more than gun or knife.
Natalie C. Anderson is a writer and international development professional living in Boston, Massachusetts. She has spent the last decade working with NGOs and the UN on refugee relief and development, mainly in Africa. She was selected as the 2014-2015 Associates of the Boston Public Library Children’s Writer in Residence, where she wrote her debut novel, City of Saints and Thieves.
January 15 – Laura’s Bookish Corner – Moodboard
January 16 – Between the shelves – Review + Listicle + Creative Instagram
January 17 – Brittany Fiiasco – Creative Instagram Picture
January 22 – Megan the Meganerd – Review
January 23 – Bookish_Kali – Creative Instagram Picture
January 24 – The Busy B Creative – Moodboard
January 25 – Afire Pages – Review + Favorite Quotes
Have you read this book or any books by Natalie C. Anderson? Do you know any books that talks about the same topics? Let’s talk about it below!