Word Spelunking


Endangered - 4.5/5 Stars Eliot Schrefer's Endangered was one of those books that I went into with absolutely no expectations and walked away from with so much--so many feelings, thoughts, ideas, new information, and inspiration. I'm only sad that I didn't discover this book sooner.Endangered follows fourteen year old Sophie, as she spends the summer in the Congo with her mother who runs a sanctuary for bonobos. Sophie buys a neglected young bonobo, she names Otto, from a man on the street and takes him to the sanctuary where she nurses him back to health and forges an unbreakable bond with. When her mother must leave to release bonobos back into the wild and a revolution breaks out in war stricken Congo, Sophie must seek refuge in the unforgiving jungle, saving herself and a group of bonobos. She and her furry friends must contend with deadly rebels, near starvation, and harsh weather and journey to meet her mother before it's too late for all of them.Endangered is a powerfully moving exploration of love, family, friendship, war, and courage. Schrefer has crafted a truly compelling and captivating story about a place and situation that is given very little attention, but he has definitely opened my eyes.This is not a sweet and sunny story, it is raw, honest, intense and heavy, and entirely impossible to ignore. Schrefer deftly, yet unassumingly, explores the plight of the Congo and its people, not shying away from the dark, painful, and, at times, gory realities of a war stricken country. And he does so on both a very big picture scale and a very intimate, personal level. This is book is a work of fiction and not based on a true story or real people, but the author has fictionalized Congo's very real issues with a great deal of authenticity, respect, and sensitivity.The world Schrefer has built-the bonobo sanctuary nestled on the edges of the jungle, the harsh, dangerous jungle itself, the bleak countryside dotted with various villages and communities- all feels very real and concrete, and layered. I feel like I learned so much about the Congo, its history, people, and culture, and, of course, I learned a great deal about bonobos and have a whole new appreciation for this amazing animal.Through Sophie's relationship with her parents, her relationship with Otto, the relationship and interaction between the bonobos, and the behaviors and actions of all the characters, the author has managed to capture so much about the essence of family, love, and humanity, and has done so with such finesse. The heart of this book is the relationship between Sophie and Otto; a relationship that is heart-achingly beautiful and awe-inspiring. The bond and pure love between these two touched me greatly and moved me to tears. This is one friendship that will never truly leave readers.Sophie's journey is a harrowing, yet inspiring one that had me on the edge of my seat. Her adventure through the jungle is one of suspense, survival, and courage, and I found it equal parts heart-stopping, enthralling, and terrifying.Endangered left me breathless, inspired, and thoughtful. This book, its characters; story; and message are unforgettable and powerful. Readers will walk away from this book inspired and changed. A fantastic read for older MG readers and up.

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