Haunting and inspiring reflection, Endangered by Eliot Schrefer’s novel deserves the high-praise it has received. This young adult contemporary book was a compelling read and it lingers on the mind long after completion. The loving attention devoted to characterizing the bonobos was especially well-done. The protagonist, although she makes mistakes and is at times naive, is resiliant. This book addresses not only endangered species and war, but teaches lessons about the law of unintended consequences without being preachy and while moving along the plot at a brisk pace.
The reviewed edition included an outstanding Q&A with the author. The author made it clear that this book was not based on any actual events, but was rather the imaginging of what might happen. Nevertheless, that was some first-rate imagining on the author’s part; both the interaction with the bonobos and the war-torn landscape of Congo felt real.
The buzz-word in literature this year seems to be “diversity”, with a call for more diverse characters. The teenage protagonist, Sophie, is half Caucasian and half black and this novel is set entirely in a war-torn Congo. So, in addition to be a thought-provoking read, this novel may just be what some readers are looking for.
Profanity/Language: 4 religious exclamations; 1 derogatory name.
Violence/Gore: Aggressive animal behavior towards other animals and towards humans; sounds of fighting and screams are heard and bodies are seen from a distance, no details; physical evidence of abuse of animals; implied death of animals; report of animals attacking another animal; verbal threats; radio broadcast reporting assassination and deaths in an uprising; character sees bodies with mention of blood, a little brief description; animals bite other animals; animal pushes character from height resulting in injuries; animal shot, non-descriptive; report of death of family members; mob grabs at character; bodies of dead animals found; character has a necklace of mummified fingernails; character sees many decomposing human bodies (not described).
Sex/Nudity: Reference to tampons; 2 reference to animals “humping”; soldiers make gesture grasping crotch; crowd of soldiers/men yell and implication is that it is crude/sexual; character lets another character think she has been given to him by his men for sexual purposes and he comments that at least she is too young to give him AIDS; character is told to remove shirt and she is in bra only; general discussion of chimp behavior that they war and rape like humans; character says a bonobo is catnip to the lady bonos and the gentlemen bonos, too; implication that rape is an imminent threat to women in Congo; implication that some bonos went into the woods to mate.
Q&A section in back of novel talks about conditions in Congo with mentions of the violence, rape, etc.
Mature Subject Matter:
Endangered animals, poaching, war/revolt/uprisings, politics, poverty, murder/death.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Soldiers get drunk; sleeping pills are given to animals; animals are sedated; beer is given to an animal; it is evident a character is drunk and appears to also be on drugs.