Sophie's parents are divorced and she is spending her summer with her mother who lives in Congo, running a sanctuary for orphaned or injured bonobos. Sophie isn't thrilled with the idea of being in Africa for the entire summer, until she meets Otto, a bonobo being sold by a trafficker on the street. Sophie manages to save Otto and he becomes her constant companion.
As the summer progresses, Sophie works with Otto, caring for him and teaching him things. When a revolution breaks out in Congo while her mom is away, Sophie knows it's up to her to keep Otto safe until the revolution ends. And when instead of ending, the fighting and bloodshed arrive AT the sanctuary, Sophie knows she has to run.
I think this read was one of my biggest surprises of the year. I wasn't expecting to fall in love with the plot (or with Otto!), but I absolutely did. The writing is so fast-paced it reads like a thriller and the depth of Sophie's character was excellent. I found myself shedding tears over the astounding courage and determination she had to save this bonobo, while also learning more about the conflict Congo faced and feeling as if I were a witness to some of the utter horror the people of Congo were forced to experience. I don't think any of us know nearly the amount of information we think we do and it's a truly horrific war, yet one that needs awareness throughout the world. I certainly felt ignorant!
The author includes information in the back of the book on different organizations to get involved with or donate to in order to help the endangered bonobos. I highly encourage checking them out if you read and love this book the way I did. It's one of my favorite reads of the year.
Recommended for older teens. There's quite a bit of extreme violence and emotional destruction throughout the story.