cover image Soldier Boy

Soldier Boy

Keely Hutton. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-374-30563-5

In this brutal debut novel inspired by real-life events, Hutton addresses the horrors of the Ugandan civil war through two child soldiers. The narrative primarily follows Ricky Richard Anywar, kidnapped at age 14 and forcibly inducted into Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army alongside his brother and friends in 1989. Over the next few years, Ricky survives horrifying conditions, brutal training, and numerous combat missions, always looking for a chance to escape. Meanwhile, in 2006, 11-year-old Samuel recuperates from grievous injuries after falling in battle, unable to trust his caregivers or the strange man who insists on learning his story. Both boys are forced to confront the memories of lost friends and the things they did to stay alive. Hutton approaches the setting, conflict, and characters with unremitting honesty, drawing from Anywar’s own life (he contributes an afterword) while using the fictional Samuel as a stand-in for the current generation of unwilling soldiers. This isn’t an easy or pleasant read—Hutton doesn’t shy from discussions of rape, torture, and abuse—but it’s eye-opening and relevant. Ages 13–up. Agent: Soumeya Bendimerad Roberts, HSG Agency. (June)