Thursday, June 13, 2013

Guys Read: Thriller

Guys Read: Thriller is a mixed bag. Ten stories, by ten different writers. "Thrillers," supposedly, but... well, some of the stories, I really liked. But others just left me flat.

Of course, you might like some that I don't. That's what makes the world go round, right? But I want to excerpt from the one I especially liked, "Pirate," by Walter Dean Myers. Maybe you've heard news stories about Somali pirates hijacking ships for ransom? Myers tells their side of the story with a 14-year old Somali narrator:

Other ships came... Sometimes they would drop barrels into the water, barrels mostly sealed, but some of them leaked a fluid that turned the water dark. Some of the fish off the shore began to die. They would float onto the beach, their bodies white and shining... until the tide left them to rot and for the gulls to eat.

Then the gulls began to die.

Obe Bashir Hari, my uncle, said that what we must do was plain for all the world to see.

We have to fight back or watch our families starve," he said. "They want to pretend that they don't see us, but we must insist upon being seen." This was what he said to my cousin and my father when he first became a pirate. When my father asked if I would go with them, my uncle looked at me and felt my arm.

"Yes," he said. "The boy is old enough to fight. He should go..."

Mussa Cali is nineteen years old and he is our leader... He first went to war when he was sixteen and the enemy was the peacekeepers with their blue United Nations peacekeeper helmets. They had tried to stop the people from raiding the government food stores. The peacekeepers were beaten back but he had sustained a scar across his forehead that seemed to move when he was angry. Then he had teamed up with the Volunteers, who provided weapons when they were needed by anyone who attacked the foreigners. They also took part of whatever was taken. Mussa sometimes talks about how the foreigners have no business in our waters, but I know he is a pirate because he likes the money he gets...

This was my second trip. The first trip we got nothing because an American navy boat came up on us as we neared our target and we had to turn away.

Our boat... was called Raqq al-Habib, after a song the owner liked. If we were successful we would paint it over and change the name before going out again. Our families came to the beach with us and kissed us many times before leaving. Then the guns were handed out and packages of cooked rice and spicy lamb. When I was handed a gun, my heart pounded in my chest. I told myself to look calm and I tried to think calm thoughts, but I knew I was close to shaking, I was so afraid. The men kissed Mussa on both cheeks and embraced us all.

"It's good to see young warriors." A man with a small stubble of a beard touched my head.

The Habib was a very special boat. It had a false tiller mounted on the back that had no real use and a wheel in the cabin. My uncle said that the tiller made it look like a slow boat but the twin screws would let it fly across the water.

I had a band of ammunition that was slung across one shoulder and that came down past my waist to my hip. My uncle showed me how to release the safety of the AK-47.

"You will know who the enemy is and where to point the gun when the time comes," he said. His voice was higher than it was in the marketplace or when he sang at home. It was high and wavered and I knew that somewhere inside of him there was also fear.

I said a small prayer to God and told him that I did not want to die, knowing that if he could read my heart he already understood this. There were seven of us altogether, and I imagined seven prayers drifting to heaven.

OK, that's all of "Pirate" I'll give you. It is my favorite in the book, but check out the other writers who contributed stories: M. T. Anderson, Patrick Carman, Gennifer Choldenko, Matt de la Pena, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Bruce Hale, Anthony Horowitz, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, and James Patterson. Guys Read: Thriller is the second in a series. I will look for the first: Guys Read: Funny Business, and maybe review it here.

1 comment :

Debra said...

Funny Business is pretty good, but like most anthologies, it's a mixed bag. Still, it's well worth a read through. And I think short story anthologies should be promoted more. It seems like a great tool for reluctant readers (I hate that label but can't think of anything better -- emerging readers?)because kids can dip in and out of the book or find authors they like, etc.