It’s a while since I’ve read a book the likes of this one. I won’t be forgetting this story. It’s written by Patrical McCormick. It’s a novel, but based on the true story of Ahn Chorn-Pond, a young man who survived the Killing Fields of Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge. This is not a comfortable read and nor should it be. We learn how Ahn’s family life, safety and happiness disappeared with the appearance of the Khmer Rouge, forcing him and thousands of other Cambodians into work camps where human life was not valued and atrocities were an everyday occurrence. What is intriguing is the camaraderie and loyalty which grew up among those that Ahn became associated with in the work camp. Although starving, we see in the book many occasions where much sought after food is given away to friends, one child protects another and keeps secrets to keep the other alive. For Ahn, survival came in the form of music. He was chosen to be involved in a band or orchestra which played patriotic songs of the Khmer Rouge. We see the “power” afforded to Ahn as a result of this, and how it ensures his survival, and a marginally easier existence. His journey to freedom in Thailand, is fraught with danger and even when there, the poisonous tentacles of the Khmer Rouge are still present and dangerous. Ahn’s final deliverance from danger is miraculous. Ahn Chorn-Pond is now a world renowned speaker on the topics of Cambodia and he founded Children of War, an organisation that aids children held hostage by war and violence. He is the founder of Cambodian Living Arts, a group that helps preserve the traditional arts of Cambodia by pairing young students with the feew master musicians who survived the Khmer Rouge.
The year is 2016. Meet Will Hodges. Things aren’t going so well for him. He’s dealing with the tragic loss of his mother, his bigoted, neglectful father, and a group of people who he calls the “freaks” following him around, looking at him with sorrowful faces. School doesn’t offer him any escape, in fact he’s lucky to make it there more than a few days a week. This might have something to do with the fact that each night, he’s plagued by graphic and violent dreams which seem to involve many different historical events. Poor Will. You wouldn’t want to be him! He’s confused and lonely. Things really become complicated when he discovers that he’s a “Returner”, someone who has lived throughout history, being present at many major events. This, and his fathers’ involvement in a new political party espousing frightening and racially prejudiced views, see Will involved in a journey to find out who he really is. This is a book with messages for the reader about right and wrong on a number of levels. Be prepared to think! This is my first Gemma Malley novel. I will definitely be reading more. Check out her website to see what she has written.
John Riley says goodbye to his parents, and sprints down the road, already late to catch the bus which will take him to his new boarding school. As he boards, just in time, he briefly reflects that the teacher standing at the bus looks a little different, perhaps a little taller than most. Taking his seat, he knows that something is definitely odd when the seat belt activates, pinning him very firmly to his seat. As the bus manoeuvers to a 180 degree upright position prepared for take off, he definitely knows he’s made a mistake! Too late! John Riley is about to take the trip of a lifetime, to Hyperspace High – an amazing school for superior students which is on an enormous space ship!
At first John is lonely, realizing that he’s light years from home, with no hope of returning quickly. But gradually he makes friends with beings from all over the universe, as well as the ever present computer, Zepp. He begins to enjoy the wonderful things he is involved with on Hyperspace High. Where there are friends, there will always be enemies, and on a field trip gone disastrously wrong, John and his friends quickly learn that they must work together to survive, whilst others selfishly only try to save themselves. The exciting finish sees John and his friends return victorious to Hyperspace High, earning high praise from the principal. This is only the beginning of John’s adventures on board the inter galactic high school. A great read!