Author: Laura Manivong
From GoodReads, "When you're so skinny people call you Skeleton Boy, how do you find strength for the fight of your life?
Twelve-year-old Vonlai knows that soldiers who guard the Mekong River shoot at anything that moves, but in oppressive Communist Laos, there's nothing left for him, his spirited sister, Dalah, and his desperate parents. Their only hope is a refugee camp in Thailand—on the other side of the river.
When they reach the camp, their struggles are far from over. Na Pho is a forgotten place where life consists of squalid huts, stifling heat, and rationed food. Still, Vonlai tries to carry on as if everything is normal. He pays attention in school, a dusty barrack overcrowded with kids too hungry to learn. And, to forget his empty stomach, he plays soccer in a field full of rocks. But when someone inside the camp threatens his family, Vonlai calls on a forbidden skill to protect their future—a future he's sure is full of promise, if only they can make it out of Na Pho alive.
In her compelling debut, Laura Manivong has written an evocative story that is vividly real, strongly affecting, and, at its heart, about hope that resonates in even the darkest moments."
The whole time I was reading this novel, I kept thinking, I wonder if this is based on a true story. I was so curious that I did some research and found out this story is based on author, Laura Manivong, husband's experiences. Knowing this information brings an even deeper connection to the story than before. The novel is told from the point of view of twelve-year-old Vonlai Siravong. It is so incredible to think of the experiences that Vonlai had compared with the typical twelve-year-old American boy's experiences.
This novel isn't one that is easy to read, the experiences that face the Siravong family are incredibly moving. Especially the way that Vonlai has to protect his sister from sexual assault within the refugee camp. I really liked the connection Vonlai has with an older Lao colonel within the camp, who becomes a mentor to Vonlai. Especially moving to me was the idea that within a refugee camp where it takes hard work, effort, and a positive mind-set to survive, there are still moments where normalcy occurs, like soccer games and school. In these rare moments, I was reminded that Vonlai was still just a kid. This novel should be on many awards lists and I will be sure that it gets read by as many people as I can possible entice.