Atrocity is an abstraction with little meaning for young people. This novel places them into the experience of a boy facing deprivation, disease, dislocation, debasement and death in Pol Pot's Cambodia.




A Young Boy's Struggle to Survive in Khmer Rouge Cambodia

Written by Jill Max

Royal Fireworks Press, 2006
ISBN: 978-0880926171

This middle grade novel from Jill Max is a graphic and horrific account of what befalls Mok and his family when the Khmer Rouge take control of Cambodia. Mok is nine years old when the atrocities begin, and through persistence, incredible courage and luck, he survives one of the most barbaric episodes in the last half of the twentieth century. In one episode after another, the reader is led into the increasingly desperate plight of Mok and to an understanding of the cruelty of the Khmer Rouge and the enormity of what took place in Cambodia.


This true story describes young Mok's experiences of the grinding pains of hunger, debilitating disease, forced labor, separated families and massacres. An epilogue tells us that his family finally made it to a refugee camp in Thailand and thereafter were sponsored to enter the US and a new life in Oklahoma.

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Kelly has written under a number of names, including Jill Max, the pseudonym used for work co-written with Ronnie Davidson, her writing partner of more than 20 years.