Thursday, November 07, 2019

Teen/YA Review: Threatened

I have been dying to tell you about the 2014 National Book Award finalist Threatened by Eliot Schrefer, part of his highly acclaimed and popular Ape Quartet. This teen/YA novel about an African boy who lives among chimps was just as good as his earlier novel, Endangered - engrossing, stunning, and fascinating.

Luc is an orphan, living a hand-to-mouth existence under the control of a cruel master in a run-down house with other orphans in the city of Franceville in Gabon, Africa. One day, while working in the local cafe/bar for tips, Luc meets a very unusual man who he thinks looks like an Arab. He says he is a chimpanzee researcher originally from Egypt; his name is Professor Abdul Mohammed, but people call him Prof.  Even more startling, a tiny monkey called a vervet (also from Egypt, as Prof explains) accompanies him and is named Omar. Prof pays Luc to help carry his luggage to a nearby hotel. He ends up hiring Luc to accompany him into the jungle. Luc, intent on saving some money so he can escape his situation, figures he can go along with Prof and watch for an opportunity to steal his metal briefcase. As the pair (plus Omar) venture deep into the jungle, though, Luc begins to like Prof (and the feeling is mutual). They set up camp far from any villages and begin looking for chimpanzees, which Luc is afraid of because of childhood stories calling them "mock men." But, when they find a family of chimpanzees, Luc becomes fascinated, naming them and helping Prof to observe them and remember details for his notes. Luc, Prof, and Omar become like a family themselves, and when disaster hits, Luc must decide what he'll do.

As with Schrefer's Endangered, Threatened is immediately captivating, with likable characters (including the animals) that you want to root for. It is a compelling adventure story, fast-paced and full of action and danger, but it is also an intriguing and well-researched account of the lives of chimpanzees, as Luc and Prof observe them and even live among them. I gobbled up this captivating novel in great gulps and was left wanting more (though it provides a satisfying ending). In fact, when I finished reading it, I went to my local indie bookstore and ordered Through a Window: Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe by Jane Goodall (recommended by Schrefer) because I want to know more about these close cousins to humans. I don't know why I waited so long to read Threatened after loving Endangered, but now I am eager to read the other two books in Schrefer's beautifully written, exciting, and important series. These books are must-reads - not just for teens, but for grown-ups, too!

288 pages, Scholastic

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.


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Listen to a sample of the audio book (which sounds wonderful) from the first chapter or download it from Audible. Just listening to the beginning of this book makes me want to read it again!

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  1. Anonymous5:02 PM

    I was 13 when I first saw Jane Goodall speak in person and have been fascinated with her work ever since. This series sounds really interesting and so different from the usual YA books.

    1. Oh, wow, Helen - lucky you!! That would be so amazing, to hear her speak in person. These novels are sooo good - I am really looking forward to reading Jane Goodall's book now!