________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 40 . . . . June 14, 2013


Nine Days.

Fred Hiatt.
New York, NY: Random House (Distributed in Canada by Random House Canada), 2013.
241 pp., trade pbk., hc., EBOOK, $21.00 (trade pbk.), $24.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-0-385-74273-3 (trade pbk.), ISBN 978-0-375-99073-1 (hc.), ISBN 978-0-307-97727-4 (EBOOK).

Grades 7-11 / Ages 12-16.

Review by Karen Boyd.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



Back on the street, she laid out what she had in mind. It sounded crazy, but I didn't have a better idea. And when we got to the room, she knelt in front of our door and soundlessly showed me two strands of hair, one hanging from the nail, the other from the doorknob.

She held her fingers to her lips-it wouldn't be safe to talk here anymore-and we went in to get some sleep.

The next day, we'd start looking for her father. And it seemed we might have some company.

Ethan and Ti-Anna are 15-year-old sophomores. Ethan has a passionate interest in Chinese history, and he is drawn to Ti-Anna who has lived through some dark moments of that history. Her father is a Chinese activist who was forced to flee China. As they become closer, Ti-Anna confides to Ethan that her father has gone missing on a trip to meet with other activists. The two teenagers plan a daring trip to rescue him. Secretly leaving the country with Ethan's parents' credit cards, Ethan and Ti-Anna follow her father's trail and get caught up in political intrigue and human trafficking that puts their lives in repeated danger.

      The premise that two 15-year-olds are able to travel across the world, into countries with tight security and move into a very shadowy underbelly is intriguing if highly implausible. Ethan and Ti-Anna know that her father's enemies are following them, and they seem to be able to lose them. It is also a little disconcerting to note that the two make connections with several adults who just move them along on their journey, taking little to no responsibility for their safety. Eventually, the two get caught up in a human trafficking ring, and Ethan has to blow up a boat in order to save both Ti-Anna and the rest of the girls. Despite the implausibility, Hiatt moves the story along very quickly and in a highly engaging way. Ethan and Ti-Anna lurch from disaster to disaster, forcing the reader to continue turning the pages. Suspending disbelief is the easiest way to enjoy this adventure story.

      Hiatt, who works for the Washington Post, uses his own experiences and knowledge of the geography, history, and issues that surround Nine Days. Hiatt does an excellent job at immersing readers in the sounds, sights, and smells of Hong Kong and China. Ethan's obsession with eating and food lends both a bit of lightheartedness and some great descriptions to the text. Hiatt also stays true to the political storyline and suggests the complexity of the issues by having a less than happy ending. The mysterious reader of Ethan's essay to the judge also suggests that there is more to this story than readers get to hear from Ethan's account.

      There is another storyline that documents a blossoming romance between Ethan and Ti-Anna. I found this a little implausible as well. Ethan is written as a humble, brave, and honourable character. He pokes fun at himself and reflects honestly on his decisions. He is very likable. Ti-Anna, for understandable reasons, is usually distracted, impulsive, and grumpy. It was hard to understand why Ethan was so connected to her.

      Nine Days is loosely based on a true story. Hiatt includes the real Ti-Anna's story in the author's note. While Hiatt has taken liberties with the story to turn it into an adventure/thriller, it may have been worthwhile to focus on some of the political issues in more depth. However, Nine Days is still an engaging and exciting read.


Karen Boyd is a doctoral candidate in language and literacy and an instructor in the Bachelor of Education program at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.