This is the story of a young teenage boy name T'Yin who is the youngest elephant trainer in his village in the Vietnam jungle. American troops have withdrawn from the Vietnam War, and T'Yin's village, from which many of the men helped the American Special Forces, is now vulnerable to attack from the North Vietnamese. T'Yin ends up fleeing into the jungle with his elephant, and has to decide whether to stay and resist or establish a new life elsewhere.
This book had a lot of potential, but unfortunately, I did not find it to be very engaging. I enjoyed the first 30 pages of this book, introducing T'Yin and his elephant, Lady, but it was downhill from there. The elephant became rather peripheral to the storyline, there, but not very important, and I think that would be one of the main appeals for many readers. Lady also didn't really come to life and didn't seem to have much personality to her.
I felt the story, as short as it is, just seemed to drag on, and the writing was so dry and matter-of-fact and held me at a distance. T'Yin was held captive, and running through the jungle, and bickering with older boys, and making major life decisions, and I cared more about getting through the book than about what happened to his character. I also felt the writing was a bit abrupt at times. T'Yin has an exceedingly convenient reunion with his elephant; she appears unexpectedly out of nowhere at a key moment. And, the ending of the story seemed rather abrupt to me. All of a sudden, T'Yin comes to his monumental decision and has his strong feeling of security in what the future holds (for no apparent reason), and the book is over.
Finally, I also didn't like the fact that T'Yin sees the soul of a dead young man twice, and not in a dream sequence or anything like that, but in broad daylight matter-of-factly like it really happened.
I think a book for young people aimed at this time period from the side of the Vietnamese is a wonderful idea, but I do not feel this book lived up to its potential. It's main fault is that it does not do well drawing the reader in and the reader ends up at an emotional remove.