They Called Me Red- Christina Kilbourne

This is another outstanding work by the author of Dear Jo. Devon lives with his father and has never known his mother; believing her to be dead. Along comes Lily, ostensibly a friend to his father who eventually moves in with them. Her goal is to bring over her twin boys from Vietnam where she has left them with family. She shows Devon many small cruelties but manages to keep them from his father and when Devon complains, his dad puts it down to different cultures and misunderstandings. Although a kind man, he doesn’t seem to take his son’s complaints as seriously as he might. Devon’s dad becomes ill and as this illness escalates, Lily decides to take him to Vietnam for treatment by her uncle who is a doctor there. Devon is to go along. Suspicious of Lily’s motives from the beginning, indeed his fears are realized as his father soon dies and horror of horrors, he is sold into bondage to a woman named Long. The story then turns to a description of the mistreatment of the children and the expectations put on them by their cruel owner. Although no detailed description is given, it is obvious what is going on. Eventually, Devon and the other children with him are rescued. Happy ending? Well, just think of the aftermath of an ordeal like that. Coming home an orphan, going to foster parents, facing the press who want to know all the details, facing friends and class-mates who might see the shame written across his face. But good counselling help, wonderful foster parents and the wonder of a mother (who is not dead!), and true friends show that even enormous painful losses and memories can be dealt with and lived with. This is a powerful novel and like so many other recent novels, will ensure that we all become more aware of the plight of children in so many other parts of the world.

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