Jun 5, 2014

Review: Hostage Three by Nick Lake

Title: Hostage Three
Author: Nick Lake
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publishing Date: November 12, 2013
Pages/Format: 369, Hardcover
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From the author of the Michael L. Printz award–winning novel In Darkness comes a critically-acclaimed, fast-paced thriller that’s as dangerous as the seas on which it’s set.

The last thing Amy planned to do this summer was sail around the world trapped on a yacht with her father and her stepmother. Really, all she wanted was to fast-forward to October when she’ll turn eighteen and take control of her own life.

Aboard the Daisy May, Amy spends time sunbathing, dolphin watching and forgetting the past as everything floats by . . . until one day in the Gulf of Aden another boat appears. A boat with guns and pirates – the kind that kill.

Immediately, the pirates seize the boat and its human cargo. Hostage One is Amy’s father – the most valuable. Hostage Two: her stepmother. And Hostage Three is Amy, who can’t believe what’s happening. As the ransom brokering plays out, Amy finds herself becoming less afraid, and even
stranger still, drawn to one of her captors, a teenage boy who wants desperately to be more than who he has become. Suddenly it becomes brutally clear that the price of life and its value are two very different things . . .

Book in One Word: ARGHH.*

*I can't help myself.

Well, this wasn't really what I thought it was going to be. Yes, Hostage Three is about a wealthy family and their yacht's crew being taken hostage by pirates from Somalia (which constantly "I am the captain now!" going through my head). But it's also about understanding people--whether it's a mother who killer herself, a dad who throws himself into his work and not into his parental role, or a pirate who may just be a guy doing what he has to survive--and realizing what there is in life besides green paper and electronics. I was expecting an on-your-toes thriller with a possible romance (that I'd probably root for) between a girl and one of her captors, and instead kind of got that...along with some sea-worthy depth.

Amy--who covered her face in piercings to get her father's attention, is making some trouble at school, and doesn't like looking at the stars ("...I took down all the little glow-in-the-dark stars from my room and I took them into the back garden and I fucking doused them in lighter fluid and I fucking burned them.")--is not thrilled when her dad says that they're all (plus the stepmother, who is always referred to as just that, the stepmother) spending the summer on a yacht. Amy could think of better things to do than spend time on water with her not-really-there father and you're-not-my-mother stepmother, plus a (likable) crew. And when their yacht is taken by pirates (not the Captain Jack Sparrow kind), well, the summer just turned into a huge beach of fun. But as Amy and her family spend time with the pirates--they're basically all living together on the yacht--she learns that some of the pirates may not be so bad after all.

Hostage Three is told from the point-of-view of Amy, who is Hostage Three. (The pirates don't want to know people by their names in case they have to hurt them at some point.) It's also told, I think,  in the past, present, and future, though not it in a way that's annoying or noticeable. Amy seems to be telling the story after it happened, yet while it's happening. And she also gives flashbacks to the past, trying to figure out why her mother committed suicide (and wondering if she wants to die, too). This novel isn't like a lot of novels I've read (though in a sense of...story-type, I guess, I'd compare it to the likes of Eliot Schrefer's Endangered and Threatened. Major realistic fiction stuff), and it's not written "traditionally": chapters are separated but not marked, there are some other (not disliked) oddities, and when someone is speaking it looks like this (minus italics):

--Wait, I said. Why would be in trouble? I'd turned up late, so I didn't really know what was going on.
--Pirates, said Tony. From Somalia.

It was definitely something I hadn't seen before, but it was quick to get used to and really wasn't much of a problem. In fact, Hostage Three was actually pretty well written. It was simple, but not (which I know makes total sense). And I'm thinking of kicking myself for not marking quotes I liked, because I could probably fill this book with them. Something about this book really worked and was actually kind of sort of maybe compelling? There's a varied cast of characters, a romance you really want to have happen (or at least I did), an story that has unexpectedly more to it. And throughout the book I wanted to peek at the ending (and I may have peeked ahead because I'm horrible, but not at the end or near it) because I wanted to know how this book was going to end. Sure, I had ideas, but I didn't know what the final outcome would be. With Hostage Three you may think you know what's happening, but you really don't because the actual Hostage Three is a slightly unreliable narrator and she's telling a story herself and THAT'S NOT THE ENDING I EXPECTED, so well done, book. Well done.

I don't know what else I can tell you about Hostage Three. It has pirates but not the swashbuckling, hooked, sparrow-tattooed, zombie kind. No, for these pirates, it's work. They don't have many other options. But this book also has family issues and problem solving and 'ships (friendly, romantically, and literally ships) that seem doomed to sink before they even start. The MC seems like a totally hateable person but this is her story (or is it) and it works. You want to sympathize with the supposed antagonists and wish on sixteen candles for a happily ever after for all (except that one pirate nobody likes) and can you see that I'm getting kind of passionate in this review? So maybe I liked this book more than I thought I did. And maybe you should check it out yourself and see if it takes you (see what I did there?), because "I am the captain now!" (I'm sorry, to you and my mother, but whenever there's anything Captain Phillips-related--like that Google Play commercial--I can't help but say that line.)

Did I like it? Yes.
Did I love it? Can I say that I don't think so, but not in a bad way?
Would I reread it? Maybe.
Would I purchase it? I already own it, but if I didn't, I wouldn't see the book and be all "I NEED this on my shelf!"
Who would I recommend it to? If hostage situations interest you, then give this a try. Also, if you like stories that are a wee bit different from others you may have read. And of course, if you liked Captain Phillips.

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