Think of the life you know now: the friends, the family, and the many privileges you’ve been given. Now, imagine all of that is ripped from you. Your family and friends are scattered or killed, you only have to eat what you can find, and your two possessions consist of the clothes on your back and the cassette tapes stashed in your pocket.
This is the nightmare Ishmael Beah endured and A Long Way Gone is his story. Beah faces the loss of everything he knows, while also being forced to fight in his countries civil war. He is only thirteen years old and is forced by his captain, to take drugs and energy pills to keep his young body fighting. The child soldiers are told to fight for the memory of their families which in turn enables the boy soldiers to kill their victims without a blink of an eye. Initially Ishmael was scared of fighting and didn’t want to hurt anyone, but later on in the book he becomes unafraid to shoot any person he sees.
Beah shows how human dignity is lost in a war. In his story, Ishmael is running from rebels with his other friends and get tied to wooden posts. Males are in charge of fighting in the war and the tribal people automatically think boys are there to kill them. Villagers try to kill the children even, when the boys plea with them, before realizing Ishmael and his friends are not soldiers at all, but kids. This is what fear does to people. We are set on killing the source of our fear, so anything remotely relevant, we try to wipe it out. A Long Way Gone pushes readers to face your fear before that fear leads to violence.
Beah shows readers how terrifying war is for him by letting us inside his head. The dialogue reveals the severity of and what it does to a child’s mind. His war stories are real and that’s terrifying. To think, a young teenager has to run for days straight just to be safe from the rebels. This shows the extreme severity of the problem our world has. With a Character to be with, war isn’t a far-off problem anymore. It is our problem. Stories of peril like, A Long Way Gone bring us closer to the effects of war and make us create solutions to help solve this never-ending problem.
The cover makes A Long Way Gone more plausible because, what makes a story more real then a picture of a teen carrying an RPG? In addition, the boy’s flip-flops have holes in them and his civilian clothes are old and dirty. Imagine yourself being thrown into fighting right now, people dying around you and you would still be wearing your shorts and a T-shirt. Many people can’t imagine this, so Ishmael slaps a startling image on the front cover. It is all a part of the Beah’s plan to make show us the gruffness of his life.
Most teens never realize how tough and saddening war is until we discover a novel like, A Long Way Gone. Experiencing war isn’t something most have encountered, but with the help of Ishmael, readers can start to scratch the surface of the heartbreak and tiny triumphs of war. Hopefully, reading A Long Way Gone will give teens an appreciation for what they have and appreciate that war isn’t a tiny problem. It is a large cloud looming over certain areas. With the realization novels like, A Long Way Gone gives readers, they can be the sunlight that breaks through the clouds.