Cover Image: Colombiano

Colombiano

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Member Reviews

I am so proud of myself. This is the longest book I have read on my Kindle (800 pages) and I completely stepped out of my comfort zone. I really wasn’t sure that I would enjoy it and after the first five chapters, I was ready to throw in the towel. But, that isn’t how I roll and I persevered through the 165 chapters. It was undeniably long but at the same time, I could not help but be drawn in to Pedro’s story of revenge.

One thing is for certain, reading this story, you do forget how young Pedro is. He joins the Paramilitary at such a young age but seems to be older than his years. It is only his hot-hotheadedness and poor judgements that reminded me that Pedro is still a young boy who should not be experiencing the life he is living. It is tragic on all accounts: from witnessing his father’s murder to the steps he goes to ensure revenge on all those involved.

The supporting cast of characters add variety to the story although, I did sometimes find it confusing to keep track of each character’s identity. By far, my favourite was Palillo: he is young, fun and provides much needed humour. But, he is also the steady support that Pedro needs throughout his difficult, emotive journey. Palillo stands by Pedro right until the very end and with Young’s Epilogue, I really hoped it was an indication of a very happy future for the two.

Events that are portrayed in this account are a mixture of fact and novelisation. However, knowing that young children are being exposed to this lifestyle is both terrifying and horrific. Innocence is eradicated and it felt like a Hollywood film set, especially the disregard for violence and guns. The writer successfully captures this traumatic lifestyle and how few choices young people had: fight, or be fought with. The Author’s note at the end of the book indicates that Young is dedicating 10% of profits to helping young Colombian children who are exposed to violence and, after reading this novel, could not agree more to such a worthwhile cause.

Whilst I found my attention waning in places, this was still an interesting and exciting story. Having taken a leap of faith by reading this book, I think Pedro’s story will continue to haunt me for a while. Over the many pages, I grew to care for him and felt frustrated by his sometimes immature, impassioned decisions; other times, I completely supported his quest and wanted to see him find peace within himself.

This novel exposes a way of life that is known about, but the true extent of it is only fully revealed if you take the time to research it. Young has done this for his readers and created an epic story that shows a son’s love for his father can dominate a lifetime of choices.

With thanks to Havelock & Baker and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Pedro's life is turned upside down when Guerrilla soldiers execute his father right in front of him and he and his mother are banished from their farm. Wanting vengeance against the men responsible, Pedro and his best friend Palillo join an illegal Paramilitary group.

Whilst this is outside my usual genres I read, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and I truly appreciated the time that Rusty Young had spent researching and his incredible writing ability that created such a strong image that the reader could not ignore or ever forget. 

It is a large book but I felt it the story felt every page.It was believable and addictive and action packed. I spent the majority of it on the edge of my seat.

I want to thank Netgalley and the Publisher Havelock and Baker Publishing for providing me with a copy of this wonderful book for review.
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4.5★
“When I was eight, the boy I’d sat next to in class was hit by a truck. Devastated, I refused to go to school. But knowing there had been a time before our friendship made it possible to imagine a time after. A parent is different. There is no time before a parent. A parent is always.”

This is a long, terrifying look at the worst of the disaster that awaits those in Colombia who dare to cross the . . . well, the army, the Guerrillas, or the paramilitary vigilantes that form a third force. All of them seem to get mixed up in or affected by the drug trade somewhere along the line, and the children who are gathered into the fold by Guerrillas and paramilitary forces are indoctrinated young.

The Australian-born author lived in Colombia and spent a lot of time with the youngsters about whom this is written. It is written as fiction, but told in the first person by Pedro, who's just lost his father and can’t imagine life without him. I would say this is something like a ghost-written autobiography, but with the addition of conversations, romance, and the fierce feelings of a teen-aged boy who grows old and jaded before his time.

He gives us good background on how Colombians ended up stuck not just between a rock and hard place, but between a rock, a hard place, and an impossible place. There is no way out. Elections and government are far removed from the villages where the action takes place. Sure, they have them, but it’s like the Mafia – pay your ever-increasing protection money, and we won’t burn your place down and torture you.

They call these ‘vacunas’, vaccinations – which should be protection enough, right? But what happens when you’ve paid the guerrilla forces but not someone else who’s threatening you?

“But in a country with two terrorist organisations whose members numbered in the tens of thousands, it didn’t pay to advertise my job. The first group was the FARC Guerrilla. In the 1960s, peasant farmers took up arms, aiming to fight poverty and social inequality by toppling the government and installing communist rule. To fund their revolution, they ‘taxed’ businesses and kidnapped the rich, appropriating their lands for redistribution to the poor.

The second group – the Paramilitaries – was created in response. Wealthy land and business owners, tired of the government’s failure to protect them, formed their own private militias and ‘death squads’.”

Pedro is a kid, fifteen, and the only way he can fight against the Guerrillas who killed his father is to join the paramilitaries, the Autodefensas, since he’s too young for the army. He and his friends live in the small town of Llorona.

“In Llorona, we didn’t call them Autodefensas or Paramilitaries, or even paras or paracos like they did in newspapers. They were simply los duros – the hard men. The duros were the archenemy of the Guerrilla. Fearsome hit squads committed to wiping out communism, they’d been founded in cities and worked their way into towns and villages, then outwards into the mountains where Guerrilla bases were located.””

And why do they have this overwhelming need to join up and fight? Here’s the Guerrilla leader talking to Pedro’s mother

“Zorrillo looked from Mamá to me. ‘We know your names. We know where you …’ he paused to smirk, ‘used to live. We have people everywhere watching. There’s nowhere in this country we won’t find you. The penalty for defiance is death.’ He fired his rifle into the air. ‘¡Viva la revolución!’”

I will not quote any of the horrific, blood-curdling descriptions of what happens to those who break the rules. Alongside those are poignant episodes about loyalty, tender teen-age love, friends protecting each other and their families, and the almost adoptive approach that some superiors took to the young kids in their charge – until they broke some rule. Incidentally, they recruit both boys and girls.

It’s scary stuff, well-written with great feeling, and an exciting story. It is long, and I found myself skimming some sections in the middle, wondering who those editors are who condense books for The Reader’s Digest. Somehow, an exceptional editor can tighten up a long story and make it more accessible to readers without losing the essence.

The politics, the intrigue, the double-dealing, the change of loyalties – it’s all here, and it’s all terrifying. Again, I feel lucky to have had the life I’ve had. From the author’s epilogue:

“At the peak of the war, an estimated 11,000 to 14,000 children were involved in the conflict, a third of whom were girls. The former soldiers, some as young as eight when they joined, described in detail their reasons for enlisting, their hatred of the enemy, their gruelling military training, their political indoctrination and their horrific experiences in battle.”

It’s an excellent book, published in 2017, and I congratulate the author on his work. I also thank NetGalley and Havelock and Baker Publishing for my copy for review.

There’s an interview with the author here:
https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/conversations/conversations-rusty-young/8739626
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This one was tough for me. The writing is concise, the imagery brutal, and the fact that this is based partially on real events is frightening. Colombiano is not a book for the faint-hearted, but that doesn't mean we should shy away from the brutal reality that Rusty Young aims to uncover. I had to take stop-and-go breaks with this one, often because I needed a moment for something later. At other times, it was so gruesome and terrible that I couldn't look away from the pages. 

This is one that is memorable, and Young's clean writing style makes it as palatable as this subject matter can allow. This isn't one I'd mark for a re-read, but it's a part of history that certainly deserves the kind of scrutiny and exploration that Colombiano provides in spades.
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As fifteen-year-old Pedro Gutierrez was forced to watch his father being murdered, he vowed he would do everything in his power to get vengeance against the men responsible. Grieving, angry and determined, Pedro and his best friend Palillo joined the Autodefensas – opposition to the powerful and brutal Guerrilla, the group that the men he would kill belonged to. Pedro had been a naïve teenager whose love for his girlfriend Camila, his mother and father, as well as fishing with his Papa had kept him innocent. His life would change dramatically in the two and a half years he was with the Autodefensas.

Pedro’s obsession with finding his father’s killers overrode any common sense he might have and Palillo did all he could to keep Pedro from doing crazy things. But would the world of violence he had descended into turn him into a killer as well? Would he turn into one of the monsters he was pursuing?

What an incredible tale, told by Aussie author Rusty Young after his seven years in Colombia where he interviewed special forces soldiers, snipers, undercover intelligence agents and members of the brutal gangs which were at war in the country. The child soldiers were the ones who tore his heart apart, and so, in telling their story, Colombiano was born. Blending fact with fiction, this story – at 820 pages – is a long one, but one well worth reading. Pedro was an excellent character as was Palillo and I was captivated by the story; by the heartache and poignancy which saw a coming of age story along with a thriller like none I’ve ever read before. A superbly told story, Colombiano is one I highly recommend.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.
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I happen to come across this book just before my trip to Colombia and therefore it made the read even more fascinating. The story is really powerful and motivated me to read more about the Colombian history and conflict. It is a novel which sheds light on the deep societal division and necessity to take sides, where polarisation is present from the early childhood. I got very invested in the reading and finished the book in few days, I could strongly recommend it.
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If you're a fan of Shantaram you are going to love this book.  Set in Colombia, a young man watches his father get killed.  He then makes it his purpose to seek revenge on who did this.  To do this he joins the autodefences.  You get carried on a journey of his justice and revenge and are captured as he finds himself in the middle of an elaborate drug trafficking scheme involving his allies and enemies.  You lose his losses and gain his gains.  This book I written so you feel fully immersed in the story.  The language Rusty Young uses makes this book easy to read and at the same time give the perfect amount of detail so you can really picture each scene and feel each emotion.  Loved reading this and was so that it had to end.
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This is Rusty Young's second instalment. I loved Marching Powder and although it read much like a work of fiction, it wasn't. The same was the case with Colombiano. It was based on fact, through and through, but read like a work of fiction, such was the unbelievable nature of so many of the facts and the incidents he describes. How can such corruption be allowed in the 21st century? It's not cloak and dagger stuff, the world's stage knows about it yet the super powers seem to be able to do nothing. Pedro Gutiérrez is such a likeable character, with thoughts that any ordinary teenager has preoccupying his mind until his life is unceremoniously ripped apart by guerrilla soldiers when his father is murdered right in front of hi, He seeks revenge and joins an illegal army which trains young child soldiers to become ruthless killers. This is Pedro's story, which mirrors the stories of so many children in these corrupt nations. This is a captivating, heartbreaking read that I won't forget in a hurry!!
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This was a long, yet great read. It was descriptive and harsh, but exactly when it needed to be. What an eye-opening story which blew me away about child soldiers in Colombia. In reading about Rusty Young, I was expecting more of a documentary style novel based on his intense & investigative interviews conducted prior to writing this book. It was a very pleasant surprise to be captivated from the first page and brought on a page-turning journey right until the very end. 

**Thank you NetGalley for my complimentary ebook in exchange for an honest review**
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Thank you Netgalley, Havelock & Baker Publishing and Rusty Young for free e-ARC in return of  my honest review. 

Colombiano is a novel about struggle to survive. Perdo, 15 year old, sees his father being brutally killed by drug traffickers. For his back talk, the bandits banned him and his mother from their farm. Pedro seeks help with local authorities but finds nothing. He sees only one way for justice and revenge. He joins paramilitary organization, that is supposedly work with government but essentially is the same as bandits. The organization doe not have an age limit for joining, so it is full of teenagers who are being taught how to operate a gun and how to survive in conflict. 
These kids had to grow too fast. 

It is not an easy book - it has a lot of blood, cruelty, trauma and desperation. My heart was bleeding when I read Colombiano. I cannot turn my head around the fact that how desperate they must have been to join Paramilitary. 

I think the novel is extremely well written. It could have been shorter (900 pages is no joke), and sometimes I struggled to remember that they were teenagers, barely 16 year olds, operating machine guns and picking enemies one by one. However, I think everyone should read it. It provides knowledge and perspective on the world I have never seen and experienced.
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This the most deserving 5 star rating I have ever given. 

I don’t know if there is anything I can say about this book that would do it justice. It's been well over a day since I finished reading it and I still can barely put into words how amazing it is! Probably the best book I've read in I don't know how long and a story that will stay with me to the end of times.

Colombiano is the powerful tale of a fifteen year old boy named Pedro, who joins an illegal paramilitary group after he was forced to watch his father being brutally murdered right in front of him by the FARC guerrilla. As if this wasn't the worst thing that could happen to him, he and his mother are also banished from their family's farm. Furious and overcome with grief, he vows to find and punish the men responsible.

As the story goes on, Pedro spirals deep into a world of unspeakable violence. Having already murdered two of the men responsible for his father's death, he finds himself at a crossroads - can he stop himself before he becomes just like the ones he is hunting or will he let his obsession with revenge take everything all he has left?

I started reading this book in November last year and only finished it the other day, but not for a lack of trying or because it isn't good.

It is haunting.
It is gripping and poignant.
It is destined to provoke, enlighten and it's just so utterly captivating.

But it's 689 pages long and I couldn't always find the right times to read it. As a matter of fact, I am actually glad I took my time to enjoy it, because this way I could let each chapter sink in, rather than just taking too much in at once.

Colombiano is not only a gripping coming of age novel, it offers a glimpse into a dark side of Colombia's history, while also showing the redeeming power of love. I want to say more about the plot because there is SO much going on, but I also don't want to spoil anything for any future readers. That is why I'll stop here.

But one more thing: if you get the chance READ. THIS. BOOK.!!!
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This was a powerful story I definitely can't say otherwise but it was too long for my taste. 
It follows 15 year old Pedro Gutierezz who witnessed the execution of his father by the hands of Guerilla soldiers and swears vengeance. 
This book is based on true events and that kept me intrigued the most. However, at some point it lost my attention and I had a hard time getting back into the story. 
Not gonna lie it did upset me, it was disturbing but mostly I think it just wasn't the right book for my reading taste.
The story was well developed and the characters were layered but I found it a bit repetitive at times and I lost my interest in the story. 
I think I would loved it more if it was shorter. 
Thanks to Havelock Baker Publishing and Netgalley for the copy in exchange for an honest review.
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You have to pick a side. Or one will be picked for You. .

Set in Colombia, Colombiano is an epic story of revenge and vengeance. Blending fact and fiction, Colombiano narrates the story of a teenager Pedro Gutiérrez whose life is ripped apart when Guerrilla soldiers callously execute his father in front of his eyes and he and his mother are banished from their farm. Swearing vengeance against the five men responsible, Pedro, with his best friend Palillo, joins an illegal Paramilitary group, where he is trained to fight the guerrillas. Soon Pedro finds himself sinking deeper and deeper into Colombia’s civil war and into a world of unspeakable violence. Pedro must now decide how far he is willing to go for vendetta. Can he stop himself before he becomes exactly what he despises?

At the heart of the story, Colombiano is an epic tale of revenge of a boy set against the backdrop of a raging civil war. While the story explores in great detail, the war between the Colombian Govt, Autodefensas and the Guerrillas, Pedro remains at the center of the story always. We follow Pedro as he rises through the ranks, and fights in deadly missions, all the while with the turmoil in his personal life and planning to kill those who killed his father.

Rusty Young has worked secretly for the US government in Colombia for four years and that shows in his research which is top-notch as well the characters he has created which all seem so real. The story has some excellent characters, particularly Pedro and his friends. We feel a part of them as they undergo brutal training, go on missions, we feel their happiness and sorrow as a part of the squad.

At almost 700 pages, the book is long but the pace and the short chapters make it a fast read. There are parts of this book that are quite gruesome and the story does not gloss over the horrors of a full-blown civil war. From the training of child soldiers to torture and body mutilation, the violence in this book is raw and hard to read at times. I felt the book focused too much on the character backstories and Pedro’s personal revenge. The story could have focused on the bigger story of civil war instead. Having said that, Pedro’s personal journey from seeking revenge to slowly realizing the futility of it all is an incredible journey and which makes the book immensely readable.


Overall, Colombiano is a well-researched and chillingly realistic insight into the civil war in Colombia. It is well written, perfectly paced and if you enjoy reading action thrillers, you should absolutely read this.

Many thanks to the publishers Havelock & Baker Publishing and Netgalley for the ARC.
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At 813 pages, this is a big book. But it has a lot to say so understandable. One of the better books on how young boys were used as soldiers in the drug wars in Columbia. Warning: it's quite violent. Keeps you interested though. I now want to read the author's previous book Marching Powders.
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I'm conflicted about  Colombiano by Australian author Rusty Young.       Whilst I liked some of the characters there were many more that I disliked.     Often I couldn't turn the pages fast enough yet equally often I had to cast the book aside and turn to lighter, more gentle reads filled with human kindness.   Much of this comes down to the fact it is a work of fiction but shockingly it was woven from true stories.    The amount and type of violence it contained was astounding.   This novel shone a harsh light on the the drug trade, the greed, the violence and warfare that has defined Colombia for many decades yet almost every character was a devoted and practicing Christian.    I'm still not sure I can reconcile myself to these contrasts.

The central character Pedro was only 15 when his father was murdered by Guerrilla's in front of him.     Though Pedro was from a loving, hardworking and religious family who abhorred violence, he pledged to extract revenge on his fathers killers.    For the next two and a half years he and best friend Pallillo trained with the AUC Autodefensas an illegal paramilitary outfit and Pedro dedicted his life to achieving that goal.    In doing so, he came perilously close to becoming a replica of those he so despised, allowing his relationships and morals to take second place to his burning desire to kill without mercy.    I may have questioned the protagonists behaviour at times but I liked him and looked forward to a time when he would be free of the violent life he had embarked upon. 

The author lived and worked in Colombia for eight years and described it as a beautiful country yet his love of the place wasn't evident to me.    I was repulsed by the atrocious behaviours purportedly demonstrated within all levels of society and felt incredible gratitude at not living in a country such as this.    In his Prologue (which by the way I loved) author Rusty Young  questioned his right as an outsider to pass comment on a country that had " already been deeply maligned and stereotyped  but he went on to say he felt compelled to tell the complicated and painful stories of the child soldiers he interviewed.  I can't help wondering if the following words attributed to Pedro were actually spoken by the real life Pedro whose story the character was based upon:
  I know I’ve done terrible things – killed people and even worse. I know I’ve lied to those I love. But people need to know that this is not a lie. The things I’ve witnessed with these eyes – these stories I’m telling you – they’re too horrible for anyone to invent. This is the truth about Colombia and I want people to know it. .

So, with those thoughts settling in my mind and through reflecting on the book I find myself less conflicted.     Did I enjoy Colombiano?   No, not in the sense of entertainment.    Did I learn about Colombia?  Yes, so very much.      Did it achieve what the author  intended to?   Yes most definitely.  Will it be memorable?    Without a doubt.    Was it well written?   Indeed it was.     Even though this may not sound like your kind of book - just as it was not mine - but on balance I would encourage you to stepmout of your comfort zone and give it a try.    Recommended for readers who enjoyed The Godfather.

Thanks to the author, Havelock & Baker, and NetGalley for the opportunity of reading this digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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When NetGalley offered me Colombiano a few months ago, I was flattered. It was the first time I received such an offer. But when I saw what it was about, I doubted I would like it. How wrong I was! 
Rusty Young wrote a wonderful and poignant but yet warm story full of hope. A story where there are no heroes and villains, only ordinary people fighting for the bare lives the best they can. After the last page, I didn't know who to condemn and whom to defend. True life stories are allways the strongest, and Colombiano is the best proof of that. Thank you, Rusty Young for giving me the opportunity to learn about the life and difficulties that Colombia and its people are going through. Especially children who are forced to grow up prematurely, children whose dreams and hopes are stolen. And thank you, NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
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Pedro’s life on his family farm turns into a nightmare when guerrillas execute his father and banish his mother from their home. Vowing revenge, he joins the Autodefensas, a paramilitary group fighting the guerrillas, discreetly alongside the state military, and inculcates himself into hierarchical politics toward his hidden agenda of vengeance. Young represents a no-win situation for a teenage boy in a village that’s essentially a war-zone based on greed disguised as ideology. The author writes from a well-researched position of direct observation and interviews with real-life child soldiers, though the perspective must remain that of a white westerner. Young co-founded a foundation to rehabilitate and resocialize former child soldiers, using his residence in Bogota as headquarters and tithing royalties from this novel to the foundation. Read about his history and connections here: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/24214.Rusty_Young. As a novel, this is a compelling story of terror, self-redemption, romance, and familial obligations, evoking awareness of these child soldiers. I received a digital copy of this well-written story from the publisher Bantam through NetGalley.
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It seems we take our freedom, and our good fortune for the basic things in life that protect us and make us feel safe.
The story of young children being trained to fight and kill brings a feeling of horror. But the truth is explained in this eye opening and honest account of these young people
A very moving and interesting look in to the lives of the people that live with fear that lack the basics of humanity, bring home the struggle to survive
This amazing glimpse inside the lives of individuals with
terror, murder, torture and the loss of all sense of protection from the authorities makes for a chilling read.
I have cried, laughed and smiled as this book as shown me that we as human beings survive against the odds
A recommended read that takes you on a journey of terrifying reality.
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How far are you willing to go to do what you think is right?  In Colombiano, we get to follow the quest of Pedro, a 15-year-old who saw his father executed in front of him by communist guerrillas, seeking justice for the terrible act.  This leads him to join an illegal paramilitary group along with his best friend Pallio and leave behind his mother, and girlfriend Camila who he is in love with.   Based on interview’s conducted by author Rusty Young this book pulls you in until you cannot put it down, showing the emotion and drama of not only these young people’s lives but also the conflict that shaped Colombia for the last 50 years and continues to do so today.

Throughout the book, Pedro has one goal for joining with the paramilitaries, avenging his father’s death, yet he is still a teenager trying to find his way through the world.  As he journey’s through training, battles and rises through the ranks he must also learn to balance and find peace with the values his father taught him.   The story illustrates that the world is not black or white, but many shades of grey.  The friends Pedro makes along the way demonstrate the various ways that children could get involved in the conflict on both sides paramilitary and guerilla, whether it be for ideals or just because it seemed like a more secure option than home life, or poverty. They become a family, and support system for each other as they learn that sometimes institutions and society fail to protect the vulnerable populations. 

I would recommend this book to someone with an interest in Colombia, the conflict or bilingual style books.  Originally, I was skeptical about a book on this topic written by an author from the United States but Rusty Young does a great job of capturing the events and the cultural references rang true to someone who has lived in Colombia. Although written in English there are some slang terms which continue in Spanish and help to give a feel towards the culture of Colombia.  If you are looking for a short read, or a light read this is not the book for you as it is almost 700 pages in addition it describes violence, massacres and murders. The chapters are written in a short style and the book is divided into clear parts which allows time for the reader to put it down and think about what is going on.  However, the author’s style captivated me, and I could not put the book down in the second half due to wanting to know how Pedro was going to complete his quest.  

Thank you to publisher Havelock & Baker Publishing who provided me with a free ebook in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.
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I have been wrestling with my feelings about this book since the very first chapter, probably even going back to the email I received from the publisher, Havelock and Baker, offering me a chance to read Colombiano in exchange for an honest review. Before I said yes to their offer, I read the jacket and breezed through a small number of reviews, just to get a sense of what it was I would agree to read. 

  On the surface, the task seemed simple; I would be consenting to read a war novel of sorts. But unlike the typical military story I'm familiar with, this book presents a twist; the main character, Pedro Gutierrez, is sixteen years old, which places him outside the typical war novel hero prototype. And there was the hook. The question "how can a sixteen-year-old boy possibly carry this war-theme forward" was tantalizing enough that I figured I would have something to focus on if the war theme did indeed become tedious.

  And with that bit of calculus done, Pedro and I were off on what I hoped would be a grand adventure. 

  I settled into the story quickly, learning about the life of a rural Colombian farming community through Pedro's interaction with his neighbors and friends. They live in Llorona, which on the surface, appears to be a quiet, religious farming community. Their life is calm and straightforward, and their ambitions are no different. Pedro will one day take over the farm with his girlfriend Camila, whom he loves deeply, already, at sixteen years of age. Incongruous, but I decided I could look the other way; it helps to suspend disbelief to allow the story to build. (Pedro's relationship with Camila becomes foundational to the story, so I'm glad I bought it from the beginning.)

  Through a series of events, we learn much about the tension in the seemingly quiet Llorona brought about by the local cocaine trade and the Communist Guerillas. Rural life doesn't provide much in the way of career choices; it appears you have few options. You can be a farmer, a farmhand, or you participate in any number of various steps of coca leave production. And if coca leaves are your job, then your life is controlled by the guerillas, as we come to learn they control 

  The Colombian government has a muted presence in the village as well in the form of resident General Buitrago. The General should help balance the power of the guerillas, but that it turns out that isn't the case. They've become nearly toothless due to the rising power of those pesky guerillas. 


  The story gets rolling with the introduction of the third leg of the military tripod, the AUC, United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, formed to defend the Colombian people from the guerillas. Pedro is spotted talking to a known AUC recruiter in the local market, unacceptable in the eyes of the guerilla. The guerillas confront Pedro and his father and accuse them of providing the military with water from their farm, which is a major no-no. Pedro is held down by a guerilla commando and forced to watch them execute his father right in their front yard. Pedro and his mother are then banished from their farm and told not to bury Pedro's father, or there will be repercussions. Now it's on. The story officially begins here. Pedro's Revenge, we could call it. I will leave out much of the critical matter since it will likely spoil the story for anyone interested in reading it. 

  I will be honest. I had trouble straddling the line between fiction and non-fiction. It's precarious, to say the least. Pedro is a typical sixteen-year-old schoolboy, with the concerns that accompany that part of life. The transformation he undergoes is remarkable, unbelievable even. If that portion of the tale is the actual truth, this story becomes nothing short of astonishing. For me, though, the suspension of disbelief became like a Husafell Stone, nearly impossible for me to carry. But that is my problem.

  The only other problem between me and the page had to do with pacing. Many of the chapters were only one or two pages. While this isn't a problem in and of itself, it meant that too much was left unsaid. It seemed like there were ample opportunities to add substance to many of the chapters, or some more thought to the dialogue. Maybe this was done intentionally since the POV is from that of a teenager. Plausible or not, I found it disruptive. I prefer to settle into the story, the mechanics of that stand with the narrative flow. That flow found me more often toward the end of the book, once the resolution was well on its way, but still too late to make the entire experience more pleasurable.
 
  The completion of this story left me with an overall sense of relief. Much of this feeling was related to the subject matter in the book. The content is disturbing, and knowing that a good portion of this book is factual made my stomach churn. Understanding the Columbian people were forced to live this way is difficult to fathom and terrible to see up close and in such fine detail. It made for a genuinely uncomfortable reading experience. I want to thank the publisher once again for allowing me this experience. Regardless of my feelings about the book, I appreciate the opportunity and enjoyed the process very much.
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