Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review: Golden Boy by Tara Sullivan

Title: Golden Boy
Author: Tara Sullivan
Year Published: 2013

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 350
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2013 Google Reading map): Tanzania


FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the back of the book): Thirteen year old Habo has always been different--light eyes, yellow hair and white skin. Not the good brown skin that his family has, and not the white skin of the tourists who come to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, but the kind of skin that makes the kids at school call him ghost boy and refuse to play with him. But Asu, Habo's beloved sister, calls him golden boy. She is the only member of Habo's family who loves him well. His two older brothers scorn him, his mother can barely look at him, and his father, unable to accept Habo, left the family to fend for themselves years ago.

With their farm now failing, Habo and his family must flee their small Tanzanian village and take refuge in Mwanza, a fishing town. There, Habo learns a new name for himself: albino. But they kill albinos in Mwanza. Their body parts are thought to be lucky, and soon Habo is hunted by a fearsome man wielding a machete. To save his own life, Habo must run, not knowing if he can ever stop.

Review: This is the type of book that I really like to read so I am pleased that I picked it up at my local indie bookstore. I am going to donate it to my high school's library after my daughter reads it. So what do I like so much about this type of book?

The foreign setting of Golden Boy is a real draw for me. I love to read books that are set outside the United States so that I can learn more geography, but mostly about another culture. This book was fantastic for that. There were Kiswahili words in it that I got to know since they were used over and over (like thank you, hello, etc) and I think using the local language makes a book seem more real and authentic. The author included the food the characters ate, the clothing they wore, the religious beliefs (this is huge in this book since the witch doctors are the ones who so prize the albino parts), and even good discussions of laws and how albinos are affected in parts of Tanzania.

A good Author's note at the end makes me happy and I always read them. Tara Sullivan has about three or four pages discussing her research in Tanzania, the treatment of albinos there, and which scenes and people in her book are real or based on real events that have taken place. That makes this book and its message even more powerful to know that it is true and recent.

The main character of Habo is wonderful. I sympathized with him immediately and wanted things to work out for him. The secondary characters are also well thought out; they are by turns mean, scary, caring, frightened, and thoughtful. I especially like Kweli, the man Habo meets in Dar-es-Salaam. He is so wise without being unbelievable; he represents the good in people.

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