Monday, June 18, 2012

Never Fall Down

Arn Chorn-Pond had the typical life of a Cambodian child, until a Communist group called the Khmer Rouge took control of the government and forced all the citizens into work camps. In Never Fall Down, Patricia McCormick takes Arn's account of his life in "the Killing Fields" and writes it as a gripping and unforgettable novel.

Following novels about a soldier in Iraq, a child sold into sexual slavery in India, and an American girl who can't stop cutting herself, McCormick proves that she can write in any voice and about any subject. Never Fall Down is an unflinching record of how Arn managed to survive when one quarter of the Cambodian population perished. As a bedtime reader, I found myself haunted by Arn's recollections and trying to read it earlier in the day. The descriptions of violence are too graphic for my middle school students, but this should be required reading for high school students.

There are so many discussion points in this book. Apart from the violence, the brutality of starvation, disease, and the grueling work conditions are detailed. Arn says, "New schedule announced at meeting tonight. Work from 1 a.m. to 7 a.m., 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Now, day and night, the same thing. Also the word sleep, it's not allowed anymore. Okay to say rest, but not sleep. Forget this word." My heart hurts to think that this was Arn and many others' reality for years; I want to talk with other readers about the gratitude they felt, I was humbled by his story.


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