Teen Sophie lives in the U.S. with her Dad for most of the year, but she spends her summers back in her native Democratic Republic of Congo (known as Congo here, for convenience) at her mother’s bonobo sanctuary. Bonobos are the type of ape that is closest to humans, and this country is the only place in the world where they exist in the wild. On her way to the sanctuary from the airport, Sophie rescues an infant bonobo (though the way in which she does it is against her mother’s rules). She names the helpless and abused baby Otto, and the two quickly becomes inseparable as she works to nurse him back to health.
Meanwhile, the country around them erupts into a violent revolution, and the sanctuary (and everything else) is attacked. Now Sophie must save Otto’s life in a very different way, while trying to protect her own life, as they are forced into hiding in the jungle. Sophie is trapped in the midst of a coup and surrounded by violence and must find a way to safety – wherever that may be.
This unique novel in a foreign setting starts out as a gentle tale of love and connection between Sophie and Otto that turns into a nightmare chase. It is filled with suspense and action and is absolutely compelling from the beginning to the end. I could hardly put it down and finished it in just a few days, compulsively turning the pages and hoping that Sophie and Otto would be OK.
The setting here is exotic, exciting, and terrifying and provides a fascinating glimpse into a completely different world for most YA readers. I certainly learned a lot about Congo, its violent history, and what it might be like to try to survive in the midst of a revolution. Sophie and Otto are both likeable characters that I was rooting for to the very last page. It’s a gripping and suspenseful story with a lot of heart, unlike any other I have read.