Thursday, 30 July 2020

Zeru by Phillip Vargas

Zeru by Phillip Vargas
Published on the 8th October 2013.

Z for my 2020 Alphabet Soup Challenge

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One night of terror.

Abasi is a 12-year old boy living in the Takataka Dumps, one of the largest landfills in Tanzania. He spends his days struggling to find food, searching the mountainous heaps of garbage for anything worth keeping, and living in constant fear that someone will discover his secret. 

Abasi is an albino. 

In eastern Africa, where some people believe albino body parts are a source of magic, this can be a death sentence. Until now, Abasi has managed to stay one step ahead and remain hidden in the shadows. But when a group of rebels—led by a witchdoctor—arrives at the landfill, Abasi's secret is revealed and he's forced to run for his life.

I first heard about Zeru back in December 2018 through a great review of it on Avalinah's Books blog and have now finally gotten around to reading this thriller for myself. Avalinah was right (of course)! I loved the breathtaking pace of Vargas' writing and the unique setting of the immense Takataka landfill site. I had previously heard about desperate people making their homes near to rubbish heaps they scavenge for recyclable materials to trade or sell. Through this novel, Vargas really brings home the grim realities of such a life and the everyday dangers that Abasi must avoid. His life is already difficult enough - far too difficult for someone so young I would say - yet he must also keep himself swathed in fabric, despite the heat, both to protect his albino skin from the sun and to prevent other people from finding out about it.

Abasi is a wonderfully resourceful child whose ingenuity and capabilities have allowed him to survive alone for months. Everyday chores such as finding food and drinkable water, or navigating the teetering piles of rubbish without becoming buried under a garbage avalanche, are challenging enough and compelling to read about. However, once the marauding witch doctor spots Abasi, this novel really takes off and becomes a truly thrilling thriller! I didn't expect the direction Vargas takes - and won't spoiler by dropping hints - but Zeru kept me eagerly turning its pages right through to its satisfying conclusion. Highly recommended!

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