Tuesday 24 July 2012

Review - Never Fall Down

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick

Never Fall Down is based on real events that took place in the 1970s. In Cambodia, nearly two million people were killed at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime. Arn Chorn Pond survived and this novel is based on his story.

It starts in 1975. The Khmer Rouge have designated it Year Zero in Cambodia because everything is going to start afresh. Arn is eleven and this story tells the tale of how a young boy took his aunt’s advice and learned how to bend like grass in the wind.

Amidst the manure piles, mango groves, rice, shit, cannibalism, and music that masks death, the reader follows Arn’s story as he learns that some people will do anything to stay alive. The question is, will he? And can he trust anybody – Kha, Siv, Sambo? And Mek - who treats him like a son? And can Runty trust Arn? Whatever happens, many of these characters will become very dear to you.

Have you ever had that feeling when you’ve walked for so long that you don’t think you can go any further? If you have, you might have some mental preparation for this novel.  If you haven’t, prepare yourself first.  Go for a long walk ‘til your feet hurt and you just want to collapse.  But! Never fall down.  Now, steel yourself and you might be ready for this novel….

This is not a happy story but reading it could make you a better person. If it wasn’t for the fact that Arn survives (which you know from the start), this would not be a YA book. The sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll in gritty YA novels doesn’t even compare to scenes in this story. Of course, the distress caused to any reader will not match the distress and deaths suffered by the characters or real people whose history informs this novel.

The language in the book is a bit unusual (Arn probably wasn't a native English speaker) and the narrative and plot is also fairly monotonous for the first half.  And then, chillingly, it changes. I was on tenterhooks the whole way through. There are also moments of light relief. You'll probably even have the occasional chuckle.

A truly absorbing and heartwrenching read, if Never Fall Down makes you burst out with convulsive sobs when you’re standing and waiting on a train platform, don’t blame me for recommending it. Blame the Khmer Rouge.

Publication details:
Random House Children's Publishers, London, 2 August 2012

This copy: manuscript from Random House Children’s Publishers


Author, Patricia McCormick will be answering some of We Sat Down's questions about Never Fall Down on Tuesday 31st July.  Her answers made me cry so I thoroughly recommend you come back to read them.

1 comment:

  1. Fab review, it sounds as good as I thought it would, really need to buy a copy when it's published :)


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