Do you ever put down a book in disgust wanting to say to the main character "I can't believe you did something so impulsive and short-sighted" but at the same time knowing that sometimes without the apparently stupid act there would be no story? Such a moment comes about 1/3 of the way through Endangered when protagonist Sophie Biyoya-Ciardulli gets off the UN van that would have gotten her out of The Democratic Republic of Congo immediately after the coup in favor of staying with the orphaned bonobo infant that she has adopted. I actually walked away from the book for a few days before deciding to finish it
It's a fine line of just how much detail to show when writing a book for middle grade and young adult readers about life in a war zone. Mr. Schrefer does a sensitive job of alluding to the horrors without making Endangered too graphic for the target audience. But at the same time Sophie is just a bit too lucky for the story to be entirely believable.
I can see Endangered being used to supplement Middle School humanities classes about African History or to fulfill the requirement for multicultural literature in a Language Arts class. The book was well received when first published in 2012 and made the short-list for a number of awards including the National Book Award. Reading as a adult, sometimes it feels like Mr. Schrefer is trying too hard to "hit the mark" to fit into that curriculum slot rather than writing compelling story for its own sake.