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A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

Child soldiers...

This book chronicles the childhood of young Ishmael in Sierra Leone. A fairly normal childhood until he is forced to run into the jungle as soldiers attack his village killing everyone they can catch and looting and burning the rest.

For a short while flanked by othe...
This book chronicles the childhood of young Ishmael in Sierra Leone. A fairly normal childhood until he is forced to run into the jungle as soldiers attack his village killing everyone they can catch and looting and burning the rest.

For a short while flanked by others his age in similar situations he survives life constantly on the run. Then he is captured by a group of soldiers and retrained to think right and to be a soldier in the conflict. Some of the 'retrainee' soldiers are only 8 or 9 years old! Are these rebels trying to overthrow the government? Or the army protecting the citizens? Turns out not to matter. Each side is equally brutal and vicious. There is no good guys, only bad. He learns to fight, shoot and kill as well as the real soldiers. And to help avoid any feelings or reflection on his activities he is given access to various drugs to 'amp' him up further.

By the grace of whatever higher power you choose to believe in, he gets selected for deprogramming and entry back into society. Not an easy task, but due to the incredible efforts of UNICEF and others it is finally done. Find out what has become of this young man and his new life. It is an unbelievable story.

If it all wasn't the truth. No punches spared. No letting himself off easy after his actions. Most poignantly the story is clearly written by a child.No ghostwriters to neaten it up. You get the whole horrible story from the raw emotional perspective of a 12 year old! I know I would not have survived as well as he has did. You can't help but cry as you turn the pages and confront one terror after another. Everyone should read this book!

posted by iluvvideo on July 17, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

Highly recommended. A must read!

Most teenage boys are busy getting good grades, growing up, and playing video games; not Ishmael Beah. In his memoir A Long Way Gone, Ishmael recounts his childhood in Sierra Leone. While still being a boy, he has to quickly evolve into a man, a painful and tragic tra...
Most teenage boys are busy getting good grades, growing up, and playing video games; not Ishmael Beah. In his memoir A Long Way Gone, Ishmael recounts his childhood in Sierra Leone. While still being a boy, he has to quickly evolve into a man, a painful and tragic transformation. With vivid description and flowing language, Beah powerfully describes how war changed his life.

When war reaches Ishmael's area of Sierre Leone, he and a group of surviving friends set out to find safety and their loved ones. After travelling the country, the small group of refugees find safety in a village occupied by the Government Army. Eventually he and his friends are recruited by the army to fight the rebels who had destroyed their homes. Beah expertly describes his experiences as a boy soldier and his transformations between being a civilian and a killer. After all Ishmael went through, it is amazing how he was able to write a book such as A Long Way Gone with little hatred or contempt. In fact, despite the story being subjective, the book contains little emotion. The lack of emotion can sometimes be confusing, as I found myself forgetting that the events actually happened to him. This would cause me to read a passage in a surreal-like state, and I would have to reread that section to grasp the actual meaning of the events.

The basis of the story is Beah’s survival through war, a theme found in many other books. But what sets this book apart, is that it also shows his rehabilitation after his participation in the war. This reveals two sides to the war: why it was fought, and what happened afterwards. Having Beah’s rehabilitation incorporated into the story allows the reader to see a side of war that few know about. The reader sees that the two sides are different, but both are battlefields in their own right. Despite its unique content, the book is not designed to entertain the reader, more so, the book's main purpose is to show people what Beah went through as a boy soldier. Anyone who reads this book will gain a deeper understanding of what war is like, and how it changes a person. This makes the book even more special because it can correlate to, not just the war in Serria Leone, but to every war. It unveils the horror of battle and its painful changes thrust upon people, battle-hardened and civilian alike.

The story, as a whole flows very easily, which is a great aspect, despite the fact that some chapters are awkwardly placed. In this way, the story’s flow works against the book, because it causes some chapters to begin or end uncomfortably. This results in an occasional choppy read, as action parts are interrupted or slow parts suddenly jump into fast paced sections. On the other hand, the setting and characters reveal a good amount of Sierra Leone's culture, and the negative impact of the war. The description really helps the reader understand and feel for Ishmael's predicament, an aspect of the book that only a survivor could give. This also makes up for the lack of emotion mentioned before, as the reader unconventionally is required to make his or her own emotions to replace the author’s lack of. However, this book is not immune to criticism. One of the characteristics about the book that really bothered me was the fact that the story never stayed at the same pace. It is in chronological order, but one paragraph might span a few minutes, while the next paragraph happens a few months later. The uneven sp

posted by BuckeyeBricks on January 29, 2012

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  • Posted July 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Child soldiers...

    This book chronicles the childhood of young Ishmael in Sierra Leone. A fairly normal childhood until he is forced to run into the jungle as soldiers attack his village killing everyone they can catch and looting and burning the rest.

    For a short while flanked by others his age in similar situations he survives life constantly on the run. Then he is captured by a group of soldiers and retrained to think right and to be a soldier in the conflict. Some of the 'retrainee' soldiers are only 8 or 9 years old! Are these rebels trying to overthrow the government? Or the army protecting the citizens? Turns out not to matter. Each side is equally brutal and vicious. There is no good guys, only bad. He learns to fight, shoot and kill as well as the real soldiers. And to help avoid any feelings or reflection on his activities he is given access to various drugs to 'amp' him up further.

    By the grace of whatever higher power you choose to believe in, he gets selected for deprogramming and entry back into society. Not an easy task, but due to the incredible efforts of UNICEF and others it is finally done. Find out what has become of this young man and his new life. It is an unbelievable story.

    If it all wasn't the truth. No punches spared. No letting himself off easy after his actions. Most poignantly the story is clearly written by a child.No ghostwriters to neaten it up. You get the whole horrible story from the raw emotional perspective of a 12 year old! I know I would not have survived as well as he has did. You can't help but cry as you turn the pages and confront one terror after another. Everyone should read this book!

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 25, 2011

    Great read!

    I read this book and found Beah's experience quite amazing; I have come to realize that in every aspect of life, it depends on the next generation to preserve a healthy society, and the terrorists in Sierra-Lione or in any other place for that matter aren't making it any easier.

    8 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    book review long way gone

    A long way gone is an amazing story about a 12 year old boy named Ishmael Beah, who wants to be a rapper, living in a war torn country. He experience many hard ships through his life including graphic killings, horrific scenery, drug use, and lose of his family members. He is being chased by the ruthless rebels who want to take over the country and is backed into a corner. With hard times and with little combat training by the government he takes his gun and decides to fight back. His only options are kill or be killed.

    This book was an amazing book. It opened my eyes to how real and horrible some countries are. Young kids not even teenagers being forced to fight, snort cocaine mixed with gun powder, and watch people they love die gruesome deaths on a regular basis is just mind blowing to me. This book is not your average fairy tale. It is a very graphic and real book but if you are looking for something to open your eyes to what is really going on out there, this is the book for you

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 28, 2012

    Possibly the single-most important book in capturing the war that took place in Sierra Leone about 20 years ago.

    In Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone, he presents the ideas of living in poverty in Sierra Leone, Africa, as well as finding a method to survive in times of hardship. Beah has an approach to the writing that leans toward expository, though he still crafts a well-written memoir. Beah’s purpose of writing this novel is to let us feel his emotion through the perilous events rather than having the emotion given to us.
    A Long Way Gone is a memoir (pointed out in the novel’s subtitle Memoirs of a Boy Soldier), though the writing does not express a full rendition of a memoir. Beah often lingers off into expository writing, where he informs us of impactful situations instead of showing us true feelings about them. Even though Beah feels strong opposition towards the war, he approaches it in the calmest of ways when he writes. Of course, A Long Way Gone is not for the sensitive reader; it should appeal more to readers who have read a similar book about poverty or hardship in the past. For me personally, A Long Way Gone sends some mixed messages when it comes to reading a piece of writing revolving around war and the extreme efforts to survive through it. However, this novel has a powerful impact on the way I think of discrimination and the terrible lives of the crippled and poor.
    As the author, Ishmael Beah’s premises for A Long Way Gone are wrapped around his amazement at how he managed to survive or transport to the United States alive. It was his willingness and urge to write about his experiences that gave us A Long Way Gone.
    To sum it up, the story raises issues such as constant depression in the war, where people are forced to survive in harsh conditions while being savagely treated by their enemies. This is a common theme in the book. Quite accordingly, the author emphasizes this theme through the description of hard-to-bear situations such as not being fed, not being protected, and not being the hunter of the game, but the hunted.
    The clearness of A Long Way Gone is good enough so that you can recognize characters and their personalities, as well as events, themes, patterns, and significant information. It is also clear enough to see that the book’s life-threatening situations are having an impact on Beah. If Beah’s ultimate goal in writing this book was to expose the injustice of the war and leave it exposed, then I’d say he achieved that goal.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    shockingly true

    This story was heartbreakingly sad and shockingly true in this memoir of war, seen through a child's eyes; not just seeing it and living it, but also killing in it. This brings a view of war to a totally different level. Of course, war is never "pretty", but shown from this 13 year old childs eyes, it caused this mom to shudder at what he had seen and lived through. I was also touched that a stranger here would also become this childs new mentor and parent. It renewed my hope in mankind, and drops me to me knees, praying for peace not only for children but for all of us. And to see what this young man has become... Awe-inspiring.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 19, 2009

    SOOOOOOOOO SAD........

    I highly recommend this book it was a touching and horrible-to-imagine-this-happens-to-people memoir. Read for yourself!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 1, 2013

    Khayman Nunez Sautner/P6 May 1, 2013 Book Review A Long Way Gone

    Khayman Nunez
    Sautner/P6
    May 1, 2013
    Book Review
    A Long Way Gone Review
                    This nerve-racking novel accounts for the life of a young boy, Ishmael Beah, surrounded by friends and family, living a happy life, practicing his dancing to his American rap cassettes, suddenly gets it all taken away. Forced to flee his home into some unrecognized land, he struggles to stay away and hidden from the rebels, he gets recruited by the national army and becomes a twelve year old soldier. Taught to use an AK 47, he was trained to kill any rebel he saw, whether it was shooting them or stabbing them multiple times until they were for sure dead.
                    Countless days of fighting went on between the army and the rebels, raiding each other’s camps for food and water, Ishmael was shot for the first time in the foot, barely feeling because of the drugs, Ishmael made it back to his base safely. Luckily he was saved by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), from the murder and drugs he was dragged into. Ishmael was sent to a rehabilitation center to get him off drugs and become a normal teenager. Ishmael had a lot of anger built up in him, but with the help of the nurse was able to let it go and become happy again. Ishmael has seen the worst of humanity as a twelve year old boy and still managed to live a regular life.
     Ishmael changed a significant amount in the span of this book, which is the theme of the book. War changes people, Ishmael went from a young innocent boy to a killing machine, and addicted to drugs. When people saw him they got afraid and ran away in terror. This book teaches everyone who reads it about the real world and how violent it can get. Humans can do some really bad things to each other and this book shows and teaches you all about it. This book is written so perfectly, it feels like you are there with him, experiencing what he did. Through his good memories and close to death events, the details are so riveting it feels like you are seeing all of it with your own eyes. “In the sky there are always answers and explanations for everything: every pain, every suffering, joy and confusion.”

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2012

    Beautiful

    I cannot even begin to describe just how much i loved this book
    I feel as though all people of all nations should read it

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 29, 2012

    Highly recommended. A must read!

    Most teenage boys are busy getting good grades, growing up, and playing video games; not Ishmael Beah. In his memoir A Long Way Gone, Ishmael recounts his childhood in Sierra Leone. While still being a boy, he has to quickly evolve into a man, a painful and tragic transformation. With vivid description and flowing language, Beah powerfully describes how war changed his life.

    When war reaches Ishmael's area of Sierre Leone, he and a group of surviving friends set out to find safety and their loved ones. After travelling the country, the small group of refugees find safety in a village occupied by the Government Army. Eventually he and his friends are recruited by the army to fight the rebels who had destroyed their homes. Beah expertly describes his experiences as a boy soldier and his transformations between being a civilian and a killer. After all Ishmael went through, it is amazing how he was able to write a book such as A Long Way Gone with little hatred or contempt. In fact, despite the story being subjective, the book contains little emotion. The lack of emotion can sometimes be confusing, as I found myself forgetting that the events actually happened to him. This would cause me to read a passage in a surreal-like state, and I would have to reread that section to grasp the actual meaning of the events.

    The basis of the story is Beah’s survival through war, a theme found in many other books. But what sets this book apart, is that it also shows his rehabilitation after his participation in the war. This reveals two sides to the war: why it was fought, and what happened afterwards. Having Beah’s rehabilitation incorporated into the story allows the reader to see a side of war that few know about. The reader sees that the two sides are different, but both are battlefields in their own right. Despite its unique content, the book is not designed to entertain the reader, more so, the book's main purpose is to show people what Beah went through as a boy soldier. Anyone who reads this book will gain a deeper understanding of what war is like, and how it changes a person. This makes the book even more special because it can correlate to, not just the war in Serria Leone, but to every war. It unveils the horror of battle and its painful changes thrust upon people, battle-hardened and civilian alike.

    The story, as a whole flows very easily, which is a great aspect, despite the fact that some chapters are awkwardly placed. In this way, the story’s flow works against the book, because it causes some chapters to begin or end uncomfortably. This results in an occasional choppy read, as action parts are interrupted or slow parts suddenly jump into fast paced sections. On the other hand, the setting and characters reveal a good amount of Sierra Leone's culture, and the negative impact of the war. The description really helps the reader understand and feel for Ishmael's predicament, an aspect of the book that only a survivor could give. This also makes up for the lack of emotion mentioned before, as the reader unconventionally is required to make his or her own emotions to replace the author’s lack of. However, this book is not immune to criticism. One of the characteristics about the book that really bothered me was the fact that the story never stayed at the same pace. It is in chronological order, but one paragraph might span a few minutes, while the next paragraph happens a few months later. The uneven sp

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2009

    This Book Was Mediocre

    I felt that Ishmael Beah could have written this book with alot more style and uniquness. When I was reading, the book seemed to linger and drag on through chapters at a time, and made it feel more like a fact sheet than a novel. I enjoyed learnign his tale and the events that occured during this horrible time, I just feel he could have presented it in a more creative way, which in turn would make the book alot more interesting. The book however, did pass on waves of emmotion to the reader. Moments where this occurred were such when Ishmael and Junior were torn from eachother, never to be reunited, or when the children were forced to walk on the burning sand with out the slippers.

    If were to recomend this book I would selected my choices carfully. I would recomend this to English teachers because it would give them a good topic to discuss with the class, and I would also recomend it to history teachers. I believe history teachers would find this book useful because it tells a tale of a certain countries hardships, and also is easily relatable to topics discussed in the class, such as the American revolutionary war. Overall i give this book a rating of 2 stars out of 5 because of its lack of interest, and its lagging nature.

    2 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2014

    Not disappointed.

    This book was really good. I had to read it for global & I hoped it was as good as the comments I read said it was. I was not disappointed. I even got upset when I was reading this book because I really wanted the author to be reunited with his family. The only thing I did not like about this book is that the chaps were too long. Thats the only reason I did'nt complete the book after 3 days.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2012

    A toutching must read

    This book is a very true depiction of war that most americans dont see. It especially toutched me since i have a brother from africa who had simalar exeriences with death.i recomend this to anyone who wants to know about the bad stuff that happens ib other countrys.

    If you want to know more about things like this look up the anuak genocide in ethiopia.it is a truely terrible thing that isnt that far off from the holocost just in smaller numers

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 26, 2012

    This book changed my life.

    This book changed my life.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 25, 2012

    Horrific and moving

    Beah is not a great writer, but he is a great storyteller. His account of child soldiering and of the civil war in Sierra Leone is horrific and moving. When I read the book, I was impressed by the direct, to-the-point approach he took to writing and by the sincerity readers could sense beneath the surface of his simple, gut-wrenching diction. Though hard if not impossible to corroborate with evidence, Beah's telling of his experience in the rebel army and in a treatment facility is scary, intense and from the heart. Overall this book is recommended for those interested in global issues and how these issues affect individual lives. This book is a fast read, but it contains a large amount of graphic violence and emotional trauma, and is not recommended for those seeking a fast and fun read.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2009

    A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

    A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah is a personal narrative about his experience in Sierra Leone's civil war. He tries to escape the rebels, is taken in as a boy soldier, and is rehabilitated by UNICEF. The book has a strong message about the child fighting in Africa.
    Beah hives accurate descriptions of his day to day life. Some of the events are horrific and scar him for life, such as seeing dead bodies all over invaded and burning villages. His personal feelings and his psychological troubles that are told provide great insight into the effects of the turmoil continuously happening in African countries. While some of the story seems repetitive and drawn out, it is the truth as it happened and as people need to know it.
    Most people know of at least some of the things that take place in these hostile environments, but they often do not realize the full impact the battles and killings have on the people, especially the children. This book gives an accurate, well done description of what it is like, and while things like this have to be experienced to understand all of the fear and anger; it reveals some of the truths and horrors to try to stop the injustices.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2009

    Don't Waste Your Money

    I am very disappointed in this book. The characters seem to be fictitious/unbelievable. The writer is extremly corney. The book is more like a novel than a memoir. Here are some examples: My hips were gyrating to the music!? One lonely cricket tried to sing but none of it's companions joined in!? I can go on and on and on and on. What west african child soldier writes like this. Fool me once!

    1 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2007

    outstanding.

    This book is one of the most mesmerizing books that I have picked up in quite a while. The author's shocking descriptions and vivid imagery can only contribute to this wonderfully narrated and expertly crafted novel. Anyone looking for a good, thought-provoking read--whether interested in the socioeconomic state in Africa or not--will undoubtedly find this book enjoyable. I did!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2007

    A Call To Renew Our Commitment To the Human Race

    I have not read the book I just bought it and I will read it as soon as it arrives. I saw the young man on John Stewart's show, 'The Daily Show' and was immediately a taken by his story. I am a believer in his story before I even read the book because I too grew up in a war torn country and I could immediately relate. Everything he said, about living in a war state and still come out whole is true. I was born and raised in South Africa during apartheid. In the 80s I was a child who saw death with her own eyes. People ask me how I survived the traumatic experience of seeing a person who has been burned beyong recognition and is lying on the street in front of me. I tell them, simply, I was a child who simply grew up and never looked back. His story is remarkable. I will make sure my children read this book so they can see what other children in third world countries live like. My children are fortunate because they grow up in a first world country, and they cannot begin to understand what their parents went through, and hopefully it will empower them to work for the human race, to be better adults and understand the people on the receiving end of wars.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2014

    A Long Way Gone is a fantastic novel that opens the eyes of the

    A Long Way Gone is a fantastic novel that opens the eyes of the readers. It is learned that ignorance is no longer bliss. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2014

    A Must Read

    This book is amazing i bought this about 4 years ago it was on sale....a book like this on sale for God knows why? IT IS AMAZING

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