Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go to War

Jimmie Briggs, Author . Basic $26 (188p) ISBN 978-0-465-00798-1

Briggs does not lack for material—an estimated 10% of the world's fighting forces is under 18—or real empathy for the subject, but his intention to make visible a "tragedy hidden in plain sight" often fails. In part, that's because some stories are so gruesome, it is difficult to keep one's eyes on the page. Many sections move too quickly for readers to get to know the children or the places they live. In other spots, Briggs's research-heavy drill of acronyms and statistics is numbing. The exception is the chapter on the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, in which Briggs, a Life journalist, stays with the brutal story of the army's kidnapping of a dormitory of Catholic school girls. The attention on a single episode and deft rendering of an Italian nun, forced to choose which of her students would stay with the army and which would be released, brings the horror of child warriors and the conditions that create them into focus. Otherwise, the loose collection of research, notes and interviews, including a chapter on the first American soldier killed in Afghanistan that is only partially related to the topic, offers neither a crafted narrative nor a meaty exploration of the politics of war or the failure of humanitarian intervention. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 05/16/2005
Release date: 07/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 216 pages - 978-0-7867-3850-2
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