Arn Chorn-Pond was 11 when the Khmer Rouge came to his small Cambodian village to round up people. It started when they urged all the soldiers to follow them to the airport to greet the returning Prince – none of these men ever returned to their families. Shortly thereafter, all the people in Arn’s village were told to flee into the country. They had been led to believe that American bombers were on the way and the village would be obliterated. They were told they would stay for only three days. Along the way, many died. “They fall down, they never get up. Over and over I tell myself one thing: never fall down,” Arn said.
Arn is separated from his family and forced to work under horrible conditions. Some of what he was forced to do – like throwing bodies into a ditch – filled me with horror. It was hard to remind myself that, although this is historical fiction, it was inspired by the story of Arn’s life.
Never Fall Down paints a gruesome picture of life under the harsh rule of the Khmer Rouge. I can’t even begin to imagine how terrifying it must have been. It makes my stomach churn to know that these atrocities happened in recent history. Readers are pulled into the marches, camps, and fighting alongside Arn.
The diction is easy and written to match the cadence of Arn’s voice. It felt as if he were sitting next to me telling me his story. I will admit that the writing style threw me off at first, but I got used to it after reading author Patricia McCormick’s reasons behind her style.
The novel makes me so thankful for all the opportunities I have. It’s so easy to take these for granted and get sucked into the stress of life. A novel like this reminds you how insignificant your problems are when compared to the suffering of others.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.