by: Eliot Schrefer
When making vacation plans, it's a pretty sure bet that the Democratic Republic of Congo isn't going to be on your list. One of the most dangerous countries in the world, it is in a constant state of civil war. No good guys, all bad guys. And then there are the bonobos. Sophie is on her way to visit her mother, who runs a bonobo refuge. She adopts a bonobo from a poacher on the street and nurses it back to health. When her mother leaves to go on an expedition, war breaks out and Sophie is forced to choose between returning to the United States, or saving the bonobos.
There are a lot of great things about this book. One of them being that I think that different ages of readers will react to this novel very differently. As a young teenager, I would have been able to rationalize Sophie's choices and the path that she chooses. At that age, you have a different sense about the world and your part in it. The massive ego of a teenager lends itself to the idea that you can make a difference. And I swear that I don't mean that in a rude way. It's just that as an adult, the idea of staying in a war-torn country to save a group of apes is just insane. At least it is for me. But, as a teenager, yeah, that's possible.
Also, as an older reader, I must say that I felt myself particularly moved by the descriptions of human suffering. I know that this is a novel about animal conservation, but there is no denying that in a country where war is the norm, everyone suffers.
Animals and people die in this book. So, if that is a deal-breaker for you, then this book isn't a good choice. However, I will say that this book had a similar impact on me that Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys did. It tells a story that is very real, very haunting, and very important. Endangered definitely earned its spot as a National Book Award finalist.