Endangered is a very different type of YA novel. I would have LOVED this book as a pre-teen. I was pretty obsessed with Jane Goodall and her work with chimpanzees, Gorillas in the Mist, and Matthew Broderick’s Project X. (I still love that movie!) Sophie lives in Miami with her father, but every summer she goes back to Congo, where she was born, to stay with her mother, who runs a bonobo sanctuary there. On her way to the sanctuary this summer, Sophie runs into a desperate man trying to sell a baby bonobo. Knowing it’s a bad idea to buy bonobos, but not knowing what else she can do to get this baby to her mother, Sophie gives the man all of her American money and becomes a “mother”.
Baby bonobos die without their mothers. They need close contact with them for the first 5 years of their lives. Sophie’s mother is very mad at her, but she allows her to mother Otto anyway because she’s trying to teach her a lesson. Otto is not allowed into the nursery with the other baby bonobos and the “mamas” until they’re sure he doesn’t have any viruses. Sophie lives in her mother’s office at the sanctuary and parents Otto 24/7.
Right after her mother goes to a remote location in the country to release some mature bonobos into the wild, all hell breaks loose when the president is killed and militant rebels take over. Sophie manages to escape an attack on the sanctuary and live in the enclosure with Otto and a bunch of rehabilitated bonobos. This is where it got interesting!
I enjoyed all of the bonobo information and Sophie’s adventure and struggles to keep herself and Otto alive during the turmoil in Congo. It was refreshing to read a YA book that was about parental love instead of romantic love. Both Sophie’s relationship with Otto and her relationships with her own parents were very interesting.
But this book was kind of slow. It’s only 250 pages, but it seemed to take me forever to get through. It wasn’t as suspenseful as I would have hoped. And because Sophie is on her own with only bonobos, there is almost no dialogue.
This book was enjoyable, but not lovable. It’s the first book in a quartet where each book is a different story about humans and an ape species (bonobos, chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas). I’m curious about the other books, but I am going to let my book club mates try them first. They both enjoyed this book a lot more than I did since they’re bigger animal lovers.
Rating: 3 Stars