- U.S Release Date: November 12, 2013
- Genre: Thriller
- Pages: 384
- Publisher: Bloomsbury
At Book Expo America last summer, Hostage Three was all the buzz at the Bloomsbury booth, so when I saw it on NetGalley I decided to give it a try.
I had a feeling I was in for something unique and compelling since author, Nick Lake, received the Printz Award just last year for his novel about the earthquake in Haiti, In Darkness.
American teenager Amy Fields has been rebelliously living in London with her extremely wealthy but workaholic father and new stepmother. When Amy pushes things too much her Dad decides the only way to get the family back on track is to hire a crew and take a three-month vacation onboard a private yacht. Amy spends the first weeks decidedly ignoring them until the trip take a turn. Amy, her family and the crew are held hostage by Somali pirates. She is stripped of her name and called Hostage Three.
The pirate element of this novel was the biggest draw for me. When it comes to bowdlerization, pirates have probably gotten some of the worse treatment. Lake does a great job presenting his Somali pirates as people who are fully formed and complex. Yes, they are criminals who hold Americans hostage for millions of dollars, but they are also from a war-torn, violent and impoverished country where they don’t see another way to make money. It would be easy to villanize them, but Lake doesn’t. The pirates and hostages spend much of their time together, and we see that the pirates are very organized and almost professional in what they do. In fact, the pirates don’t even use the term pirates, they call themselves the Coast Guard.
It is revealed in the first few pages of the book that while being held hostage Amy starts to get feelings for the Farouz, the young Somali pirate who is also an English translator. It is through Farouz that Amy learns about the nature of piracy and about the struggles and culture of Somalian people.
One of the things I started to ask myself was why exactly Amy was the main character to begin with. I think the story would have been much more interesting if it had been from Farouz’ point of view. He’s a Somalian teenager who thinks he’s only chance at getting something better in the world it to be a pirate. He is in many of the scenes Amy is in and has is own backstory, so there could have been enough for the whole book. It just felt like the typical privileged-rebelling-against-her-father-American- teenage-girl-who-hates-her-new-young-stepmother-and-falls-in-love-with-the-wrong-boy POV felt like something I’ve read before. Not that Amy doesn’t have any depth, but I think this could have been a great chance to have a more diverse POV.
Speaking of POV, I really liked Lake’s use of a first-person POV where the narrator seems to have some knowledge of the reader and that they are telling a story from the past. Like, Amy will refer to a “you” to try something or make a reference to how things are now. This structure also lends to some narrative tricks later on in the story, that really came out of nowhere for me.
The most jarring aspect of this novel has to be the format. There are no quotation marks and speech is just offset by a dashed line. Lake does this in his first novel, so I guess this is part of his style. Reading this on a Kindle made it really hard to follow some of the conversations, but once you get into it you stop noticing.
While he does seem to fly under the mainstream YA radar, I think Nick Lake is bringing more unique and challenging stories to the YA genre. Hostage Three dives into a dangerous world bringing in good and bad surprises at every corner to keep the reader guessing.
The Tom Hanks’ film Captain Phillips also deals with Somali pirates taking a ship hostage. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. I’m curious to see this film and read the memoir it is based on to see how Lake’s version compares.
I’m a lifelong reader who started blogging about YA books in 2011 but now I read in just about every genre! I love YA coming of age stories, compelling memoirs and genre bending SFF. You can find me talking all things romance at Romance and Sensibility.