Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Dec 2019

Member Reviews

First of all thanks to Net Galley for asking me to read and review this ARC.
Loved this story and loved the characters. What a sad situation that probably still goes on in Columbia. Using children to attain power and persuade the people to follow their ways.
This author wrote in such a way that was easy to read and not too technical. The book was a little too long and so I lost interest at times but not too much. I also read up on the author and his research on this book and found it to be fascinating. He actually interviewed child soldiers and it brought this story more to life for me.
Very good.
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Excellent read. I had an idea of the subject of the book, but still, I did not know what to expect. Rusty Young explains and describes the situation in Colombia. He does so through the story of Pedro. To me the book is really interesting. More than a novel, this book is a documentary. We discover the violence of the endless war that has been destroying Colombia for decades.

'Colombiano' is Pedro's story and it is also the story of all these children and teenagers who flee a desperate situation at home to become either a guerillero or a paramilitary. Pedro's journey takes us into a world where violence, greed and betrayal occur on a daily basis. We learn about child soldiers and how they are emotionally destroyed, drug war, kidnapping.... The  book is very well documented and very quickly we understand why Pedro says "You have to pick a side, and if you don't, one will be picked for you."

 A must read!
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Colombiano is Rusty Young’s second book, following on from his successful debut, Marching Powder. This work focuses on the topic of child soldiers participating, often reluctantly, in the bloody Colombian conflict between left-wing Guerrillas (FARC) and right-wing Paramilitaries (Autodefensas). The Australian author has spent many years living in Colombia and through his Counter-Terrorism work has developed a special interest in the plight of child soldiers.

The protagonist Pedro is a teenager who becomes embroiled in the brutal conflict after witnessing the cold-blooded murder of his father by the Guerrillas on his family’s farm. Seeking revenge, he decides to join the Autodefensas to hunt down his father’s murderers. Pedro sinks into a depraved world of extreme violence populated by ruthless killers. At the same time, this is a coming of age story as Pedro embarks on a relationship with his girlfriend Camilla. 

I was excited about the prospect of immersing myself in a human story played out in the cocaine fuelled conflict in Colombia at that time. However, I really found this book heavy going.

The characters were underdeveloped. They didn’t resonate with me at all, I was indifferent to what happened to them – I should have cared, but due to their superficial back stories I found them very thin. I do acknowledge though, creating easily understood characters would be made more difficult by the fact they fought for a terrorist organisation responsible for countless atrocities over the years.

The transition between scenes wasn’t skilfully executed and often caught me by surprise. The dialogue was delivered rapidly and was very conversational, almost transactional, which did little to help understand what was going on inside the characters heads and hearts. I also didn’t experience a sense of place – the whole experience was like a graphic comic book with no pictures. The plot was predictable and considering the subject matter there was little or no suspense. 

Coming in at over 600 pages the book is overly long. Ironically, much more could have been said by losing 200 pages with more skilful writing. I didn’t enjoy this book, it could have been an important piece of work.

2/5 stars.

Many thanks to Lily from Havelock & Baker Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book to review.
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Ooof.. what an intense book! I need to collect my thoughts before I start on a full review. To be honest, I was kind of in a reading slump when I sat down to read this, so it took me quite a while, as it's also very long. But as I got through the first few chapters, I couldn't put it down.
The writing style is engaging and the story is just.. intense. It's based on real events and I feel the book is very well researched. Even though I would have probably skipped this book if I saw it in the bookstore, I loved reading it and it got me thinking. More thoughts later.
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This book is nothing short of epic. It’s the story of a young boy growing up in the chaos of rural Colombia’s ubiquitous terrorism and trafficking problems, with all its violence and corruption taken to the extreme level.

The protagonist, Pedro Gutierrez, a boy of only fifteen, witnessed the brutal and unexplained execution of his father by one of the prominent terrorist groups, the Guerrilla. Vowing to bring justice to the people who did this, he had no choice but to join the opposing group, the Paramilitaries, as an underage recruit along with best friend Palillo.

The story is fast paced and a page turner. The action is nonstop. The narrative is clear and logical from beginning to end, which is no small feat considering the length of the story.

There are dark parts in the story that contained different shades of violence. They are not over the top graphic, but necessary to prove the author’s point. It is a ghastly realization that in a dire situation people really don’t have the luxury of choice. They learn to be passive to the death of neighbours, to appease the gunmen at the doorstep, and to not snitch to the police even if they wanted to do the right thing. Sometimes the only choice is stand up for yourself and get killed, or appease the men with the power and guns and live another day.

The young protagonist, fuelled by anger and the need to deliver justice for the murder of his father, joined one of the terrorist groups that was so much like the one he was trying to defeat. The reader see the way young people are indoctrinated into the violence, and it was all intentional, precise, and systematic.

Reading this book is an eye opener. Although it’s a work of fiction, it’s loosely based on the experience of real people. This is one of those novels that I’m glad I’ve came across, because it makes me realize how lucky I am to be where I am. The sense of justice and entitlement on basic rights that people take for granted is not ubiquitous. This book should be on everyone’s reading list, because it will change people’s perspective and make them see the world differently.
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Wow. This book was gripping, tragic, gruesome yet I’m so glad I read it. It’s not an easy read, with vivid detail about a  horrendous civil war, made all the more upsetting by the fact that the author had based the novel on interviews with child soldiers. 
I would stop reading feeling unable to carry on but would inevitably find myself drawn back, riveted by a genuine empathy for and desire to know what happened to the characters. 
I honestly didn’t know if I would be able to finish reading it but I’m so glad I did - stick with it, its worth it!
I received a free copy of the ebook in exchange for an honest review.
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First, I would like to thank Havelock & Baker Publishing for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. In this case, providing such a review is a delight.

“They came on a Wednesday to execute my father.” 

So begins Rusty Young’s new novel about the conflict in Colombia between the army, paramilitary forces, guerrilla forces, and drug lords. Told from the perspective of fifteen-year-old Pedro who joins the paramilitary forces (Autodefensa) after witnessing his father’s execution by guerrilla forces, this novel offers a vivid and chilling account of one child’s loss of innocence against the backdrop of a war that forces civilians to choose sides:

“Both the army and the guerillas would ask if you had milk, rice, sugar, or cooking oil to spare… If you said, ‘Sorry, I have nothing to spare, they might search your property and prove you were lying. But if you gave them something and your neighbor snitched, the other side could accuse you of collaborating with the enemy. 

Traitor, if you do, liar if you don’t. Either way you are jodido.

That’s what you foreigners and people from the big cities don’t understand. No matter how hard you, you can’t remain neutral. Eventually you have to pick a side. And if you don’t, one will be picked for you. As it was for me.”

For Pedro, that side is the Autodefensa, the paramilitary forces that have a loose alliance with the army and which he believes affords him the best opportunity to find “justice” for his father’s death and his mother’s banishment from the family finca. The reader follows Pedro on his journey from bootcamp to child soldier commanding other children in battle, where many will die. We see Pedro learn to kill and watch helplessly as he becomes emotionally numb to killing. And yet, the author also never lets us forget that this is a child who has been forced to grow up too fast. These reminders come in many forms. For example, on his first leave from camp, his former school principle tells him that he was top of his class on the geography exam that he had taken on the same day as his father’s murders. We also see the child in his continued love for his girlfriend and his desire to build a future with her. It is this desire and his hard-earned realization that what he has pursued was not “justice” but revenge that ultimately allows him to begin rebuilding his life, rather than remained trapped in an unending cycle of violence:

“Trigeño had convinced me our war was between good and evil. But I now saw that it was just one big cycle of interconnected violence in a struggle for power, financed by cocaine trafficking…I no longer thought of what I’d been doing as justice, instead I called it by its proper name revenge.”

What makes this novel so powerful is that the author has done his research. As noted in the book’s prologue, Rusty Young spent four months interviewing former child soldiers at an albergue—a halfway house for child soldiers exiting the vicious civil war. He also worked in Colombia as a manager for a US-government counterterrorism program in anti-kidnapping. For those of you who may tremble in fear that this background means that the book has a preachy or journalistic style, you can relax. This is a novel, which from the first sentence immerses you in Pedro’s life and maintains its suspense throughout. At the same time, the author provides the reader, who may know nothing about Colombian history prior to picking up this book, all the necessary history to be able to follow the story line. This history is masterfully provided through the various characters’ voices, so that you never have the feeling that you are reading a dry history or are back in a classroom listening to a lecture.

My only criticism—and it is a small one—concerns the ending. Given the experiences of Pedro and his friends, this novel has a bit too much of a “happily ever after” ending, as it is doubtful that they would be able to put aside their past and embrace their future quite so easily. That said, this book is a must–read, as it paints a complex picture of war, one in which children become the pawns of powerful forces and the lines between good and evil, right and wrong, are not so easy to discern.
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I want to thank NetGalley for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. Personally, I didn't enjoy the book, and didn't finish it. Honestly, I found it boring. The characters are dull,  poorly written, and mildly robotic. The pace of the book was very slow moving, and it seemed the same thing happened on every page.  There isn't anything dynamic, or gripping to keep the story moving, or to keep the reader interested. The story was missing emotion, character depth, and background information/details.
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What a book! It's a must read and It's well researched for what goes on in the story it makes you feel like you are going through this war with these characters! Received from Net Galley . You never really know what goes on in another country and this gives you a idea on what problems that they have on drugs. It was kinda long for me but couldn't quit reading to find out what happens. A boy becomes a man before his time and the emotions are so real! It's a must read!!
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This is a very good book.  Vivid characters.  It explores human personality and relationships and the social and cultural context in which it occurs. Pedro is a compelling character, who struggles with revenge, in the context of doing the right thing.  He comes to see that even the his enemies are human beings with their own struggles.  He finally sees that revenge is not the only thing.  The book also explores the reality of corruption and the difficulty of building a just society; "haves" always want more and will betray others rights in a quest to hold on to wealth and power. The book is very long, perhaps too long, but it kept me turning pages with urgency.
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*Many thank to Rusty Young, Havelock&Baker Publishing and NetGalley for arc in exchange for my honest review.*
This is a novel that I will remember but I will not reread it at any time in the future. I appreciate the Author's effort to present Columbia most complicated times under FARC. I followed the news regarding this organzation and the brutality of life under its terror, however, this novel opened my eyes to the crude reality that prevailed in those days and what impact it had on ordinary people. The novel tells a story of a boy, Pedro, who, seeking revenge for his father's murder turns into a cruel man, like the man who killed his father. While half way through, I realized that cruelty and easiness to kill or lose one's life became so common that life itself had no value any more. A most terrifyng conclusion to a novel ... 'Colombiano' is an important witness to those times, but the novel is too long, and very much disturbing and upsetting.
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Rating: 3.5/5.0

Contemporary Fiction + Cultural

So many great reviews and a high average rating score for this book. The story, in short, is a tale of revenge carried out by this young boy called Pedro for the brutal murder of his father by the FARC Guerrilla soldiers (a terrorist organization) in Colombia. What Pedro does to avenge the murderers of his father is join FARC Guerrilla's opposition, the Paramilitaries. Throughout the story, we see how this 15-year-old teenager will grow, train and does all that it takes to reach the goal he set for himself. 

I have not read books or stories before about Colombia and the crime scene there. All the knowledge I have is basically from a few articles or what comes in the news. The author states at the beginning of this book that this story is a true story narrated to him by Pedro himself. Of course, all the names were changed. And the two terrorist groups have members that reach tens of thousands. This shows the degree of danger people there are living in. Regarding the story itself, I'm not sure what part of it could be a fiction other than the names, but what was fascinating is Pedro's reply when asked why he wanted his story to be told, he said "To help. People need to understand the truth in order to heal their scars".

The story due to its nature has lots of violence, so be warned. I found the shooting scene between the two brothers to be very brutal and frightening. Just imagine this happening to you or before you! There are such scenes that are difficult to read so one has to be cautious. There are some interesting characters in the story other than the main character but the author concentrated more on Pedro as this is his journey, his story. One aspect I feel detached me from the main character was the multiple states of emotions he kept going through. From acting like a teenager to becoming in pain for the loss of his father, then becoming a killer and a part of a gang. I feel the timeframe to achieve all this was not sufficient. Of course, this is his true story and I am not questioning it but I find it a little hard to digest. 

Now to the biggest drawback of this book which in my opinion is its length. I call a book big when it is 500 pages or more. And for such books, I tend to question the length when I finish reading it. Since I got a digital copy I am not sure of the exact number of pages here but on Goodreads, it ranges from 700 - 800 pages in total. I feel that 150 - 200 pages could've easily cut from this book without affecting the storyline. Actually this could have been more compact and more gripping. I feel the unnecessary length has dragged the story at some places and made the pace slower for my taste. What compensates the length of the book is the length of the chapters, they are many and short so reading pace might feel a bit faster than usual.

I am glad that I read Colombiano, I liked the story and I wish that I loved it as much as my friends did to be one of my favorite books of the year, but unfortunately, that was not the case. I am giving Colombiano a strong 3.5 stars out of 5.0

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a digital copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review.
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Really memorable and haunting story. Especially knowing that it is based on true stories as stated in the author's prologue. This is not my typical genre of book, which I believe would be classified as contemporary fiction/revenge tale, though it takes place in a part of the world I have never experienced. I did have a great time reading this book. Did not quite see what was coming, yet felt like it was leading to something. It did have a very satisfying end. I would highly recommend if you are looking for something different and something realistic, yet unbelievable. The main character experiences more in the 2 years of his young life that this story takes place than most people do in 75 years.
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When the Guerrilla execute Pedro’s father in front of him, and state that nobody be allowed to move the body, such is the power and fear they hold over the people of Llorona, that not even the army or police are willing to help Pedro with his father’s body. Pedro waits until nightfall, hoping someone will have the courage to help him. The only person to come is his best friend Palillo. Pedro realises that by moving his father’s body to give him a decent burial he will be breaking the Guerrilla’s prohibition, and that they will then come after him. The rage that had burned inside him throughout the day has had time to cool, and now fear starts to set in as he realises the ramifications of what he is about to do. The Guerrilla had killed Palillo’s father as well and since that time Pallilo has yearned to join the paramilitaries and find vengeance. The paramilitaries are an independent force that act independently from the army, not restricted by the government, and have a history of extreme violence. Many young men would join them not being able to wait to turn eighteen and join the army. Pedro knows that once they bury his father, he must leave his beloved Llorona. His life is about to take on a completely different path as he decides to join the paramilitaries with his best friend. His dream of running the family farm and living a content peaceful life has been shattered. As he plunges the cross into the earth to mark his father’s grave he thinks of vengeance as well.

“However it was not a cross I was thrusting into the earth, but a stake I was plunging into the hearts of my blood enemies.”

Pedro is wracked with guilt. He knows that if he had not been seen with the paramilitaries while trying to stop Palillo from joining them, that his father would still be alive. This guilt only fuels his burning desire for revenge and justice over the Guerrilla, and he decides in an act of vengeance to kill the leaders who were there the day of his father’s murder.

However, as the narrative unfolds, Pedro comes to realise that everything isn’t black and white, there are consequences for his actions. He starts to question himself and his morality as more innocents are dragged into his thirst for revenge, his quest for vengeance. After capturing the man who held him down and made him watch his father’s execution, he finds out that there is very little difference between this man and himself. His father was killed by the Guerrilla as well when he was only thirteen, and he had little choice but to join them if he wanted to survive. This rapacious desire for revenge is slowly consuming him and he realises he is becoming the very monster he is hunting.

In the acknowledgements, Young says he owes a debt of gratitude to the dozens of child soldiers and the members of the FARC, AUC, and ELN who opened up and trusted him, at great risk to themselves. It is obvious upon reading this book that Young must have worked diligently with his research and interviews with these child soldiers and it comes across in the narrative. It adds a strong feeling of authenticity to an already enjoyable story.
4 Stars!
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I really loved this book! I received a free copy otherwise I probably would not have read it; it is not my typical kind of book. 

It is about a boy in Colombia who joins a paramilitary group (AUC) at 15.  The AUC is not part of the military or sanctioned by the government but they do fight against the guerrilla. It is violent and the brutality is shocking. It isn’t a true story but it is based on facts.

It is a long book and part of me wishes I would have gotten it on audio; not because I mind reading long books but it is written so well you can see the story playing out in your head.  I was totally engrossed and was so anxious to see how everything would turn out.

I highly recommend this book!
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The book is captivating at first glance. The terrorist atmosphere of Columbia has always been fascinating, with people(children and adult alike) being at constant warfare and fighting to live another day. 

The strory revolves around the lead, Pedro Gutierrez, an innocent child, who's happy and fun life is turned 180 when his religious and peace loving father is killed by a group of terrorists. In the immediate fit of rage he leaves everything behind to become able to kill his father's killers. In this pursuit he is faced with choices, many heroic and many filled with pain and agony. Will he be able to serve justice? or will he forget his roots in the frenzy of war? 

The story(a mix of fact and fiction) is intense and captivating. The writing is brilliant and encaptures a range of emotions. At times its tough to put the book/kindle down, inspite of not liking the things we just read.

The military feel is real. The training, the punishments, the planning, the attention to detail, the war, the chaos and the blood shed. It was like a movie playing in front of me. It does remind of Narcos.

The storyline is very engaging and sometimes I find myself completely engrossed in it. Both the writing and the story have a sense originality in them and it only gets better as it progresses.

Some of the scenes can make our hearts ache, we may empathize and sympathize, but we civilians can never know what the people involved in war go through. The author also brings in the touch of morality and how one perceives the same thing much differently than the other. With all its heartaches and surprises, I loved this book.
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Colombiano reads like a mind-blowing true story. A teen, heartbroken by his father's execution at the hands of the Guerrilla, joins the fearsome, powerful opposing paramilitary force, Autodefensas. 

We're invited into cutthroat training, promotions, and missions with the understanding of the hidden but ultimate personal goal - eventual revenge upon his father's killers. 

Each character (family, friend, commander, etc...) is described and followed so vividly, it's difficult to remember you're reading fiction. Very likely, this story and its characters are a composite of the myriad accounts the author obtained through hundreds of interviews with former child soldiers in paramilitary organizations, villagers under their oppressive control, and veterans of the regular army. 

At times, less words would have worked far better - and this is the only thing imperfect about Colombiano. 

4 stars.
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This is an amazing novel, based in fact, about young Colombian soldiers fighting a very uncivil civil war.

When fifteen-year-old Pedro Gutierrez Gonzalez is forced to watch his beloved father be brutally killed by Guerrilla soldiers, all he can think of is getting revenge. He and his best friend Culebra decide to join the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (the Autodefensa) who are linked but separate from the Colombian Armed Forces--the only organization legally empowered to fight the Guerrilla.

The young recruits, some as young as 11, go through a rigorous and sometimes deadly training. Those who survive, become elite soldiers and commanders. Pedro rises in the ranks quickly. But because he has his own objectives, he has divided loyalties that often conflict with his orders. 

"If you want justice in this country--real justice, I mean--you can't wait for the government to do its job. You have to pursue justice yourself." Is it justice Pedro really wants...or revenge? And how low will he stoop to get what he wants? Who then will he be, as a man? Someone his own father would recognize and be proud of? 

This is a deep immersion in the bloody civil war that tore Colombia apart for some 30 years. Both Guerrilla forces and Autodefensa took advantage of the deep poverty, hunger and unemployment of the local people to recruit their soldiers. Most were children, some as young as eight. Cocaine often provided the funds for this war. 

The story is long and bloody but fascinating. The best part is watching Pedro grow as a person through his experiences and battles. A very different kind of coming of age story. 

Many thanks to Lily Green at Havelock and Baker Publishing who invited me to read a copy of this ebook via NetGalley for review.
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This was a powerful, mesmerizing book.  Rusty Young interviewed child soldiers in Columbia, and while the book is fiction, he based it on stories he heard from them.  And they’re powerful.  Young people whose childhoods are stolen from them by terrorists, and who have to make agonizing choices at a time they should be dreaming of first cars and first kisses.  

I was given an ARC of this book in exchange for a review. This isn’t a beach read, it’s not light and fluffy.  It’s a story of greed and evil, of vengeance and redemption.  While this may not be my genre of choice, it’s an important read and hard to put down.
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It's been a few weeks since I read this book - normally if I'm going to leave a review I will do it straight away, but I had a lot going on and just haven't had chance. In a way though, this has actually been a good thing, as it's given me more time to reflect on the story and to realise that this book is one that has stayed with me.

It's a tough read for a couple of reasons... the first is that it shows the harsh reality of life in Colombia, where children are drafted in as soldiers and it's impossible for most people to live a "normal" life where they are not constantly watching their backs and trying to stay out of the way of the guerilla. The second is that it's a LONG book, certainly for me this made it a tough read as it is much longer than anything I normally read. 

That said, it's one hell of a read. The characterisation of the protagonist - a child named Pedro - is brilliant. The story spans just a few years but there are way more experiences packed into this few years that most children will have in their entire childhoods. The author does a great job of writing from the perspective of a child thrust into adulthood much sooner than he should be. You can feel the turmoil of Pedro's brain as he battles with his instincts to be with his first love Camila, protect his family and avenge his father's death. And all this in the time of his life where his brain is developing the most! I also really liked the character of his best friend, Palilo, who tries his best to keep Pedro out of trouble and provides a comedic aside to the terrifying things they have to deal with each day. The friendship between the two boys is a strong thread running through the book and acts as an anchor for Pedro.

Despite the harrowing subject matter which was, at times, quite graphic, this was a great read. It loses a star for me only because I do think it was a little long and some of the content could have been reduced without impacting the story. Also, some of the dialogue between Pedro and Camila at the start of the book, when they were 14/15 just didn't ring true for me - it sounded too adult and initially did affect my reading experience. That said, it's definitely a solid 4 stars, probably even 4.5 stars - it's well researched (the author interviewed child soldiers as part of his research), the narrative flows well and I really cared about the characters. I would definitely read more from this author.
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