A Long Way Gone: Harrowing Kids’ Combat


Elissa Gorman, Staff Writer

Most twelve year-olds’ childhoods consist of going to school, playing sports, and the occasional scrape from falling off a bike.  At the time most boys would be struggling to navigate the daunting middle school hallways, Ishmael Beah was learning how to shoot a gun.  When envisioning war, children do not usually come to mind, but for Beah, violence and hatred dominated his life throughout his teenage years.

During wartime in Sierra Leone in 1980, Ishmael runs from the rebels until he comes across a village and faces no choice other than to be inducted into the army.  War conditions force him to act as a fearless soldier. Being submerged in combat for over two years not only leaves physical scars, but it damages him psychologically to the point where he is bred to kill.  At first, UNICEF’s attempt at rehabilitation angers him, but it begins to bring out his redeeming qualities and allows him to rediscover his humanity.  

Throughout the story, the author includes short anecdotes from his village and family that represented larger themes, such as regret and redemption.  The symbolism and connections between the tales and his life helped tie the story together. With description, it allowed readers to understand the type of environment.

Ishmael Beah’s memoir told a powerful story of a boy who was stripped of his humanity through violent acts of war.  It successfully created awareness of the use of child soldiers, and the effect war has on their bodies and minds.  Overall, it was a worthwhile read, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in war and the life of a young soldier.