125. War Brothers: The Graphic Novel by Sharon E. McKay

War Brothers: The Graphic Novel by Sharon E. McKay.  Art by Daniel Lafrance

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - (Canada)

Feb. 7, 2013, Annick Press,  176 pgs
Age: 10+

"When fourteen-year-old Jacob is brutally abducted and forced to become a child soldier, he struggles to hold on to his sanity and the will to escape. 
Daniel Lafrance’s striking artwork and the poignant, powerful text capture the very essence of life as a child soldier. Readers will never forget the experiences of this young boy struggling to survive, unsure who to trust, afraid of succumbing to madness, and above all, desperate to get to freedom. In the end, Jacob engineers a daring escape. 
This graphic novel is based on the acclaimed novel of the same title, winner of a 2009 Arthur Ellis award. The author spent time in Uganda and based this story on real-life accounts of the horrors inflicted on child soldiers and their victims. This is a story of unthinkable violence, but also one of hope, courage, friendship, and family."

Received an egalley from the publisher through Netgalley.

Wow. Intense. Brutal. Moving. I have not read the YA novel this graphic has been adapted from, in fact, I'd never heard of it before not exactly being my type of YA reading.  However, I do enjoy this type of material presented in the graphic format and this book caught my attention right away.  The art is phenomenal and I was drawn into the story right away with the exceptional illustrations of the jungle and Ugandan life.  It is really difficult to use a word like "enjoy" was describing how one felt about a book which deals with such a sad reality as child soldiers.  There was nothing to "enjoy" in this story, except for the masterful storytelling which kept the humanity in the children who had been turned into brutal killing machines; that managed to show the deep faith of the people that may waver but comes back stronger in the end even when the rebel soldiers use God against the children to brain wash them into thinking they are fighting and killing for God.  The book is a testimony to how religion does not start wars but how people use religion as a tool in their wars.  Uganda is 84% Christian, which is common in African countries and this strength of faith is evident in the survival of the main characters and their healing afterwards.

The story is harsh and brutal but not graphic in visual detail.  It will be dependent on the reader whether they can handle the reality of the material.  If they can, I highly recommend this for ages 10 and up.  The main characters range in age, but the main group is 12-14.  An extremely important subject for western children to be made aware of when they are mature enough to handle it and this is the book that might just make an impact on their outlook.  Powerful.