Title: Pleng's Song
Author: Patrick Maher
Publication Date: April 2012 (2nd edition)
Age Group: Young Readers (as stated by author)
Source: Author for review (paperback)
Available Formats: eBook
Pleng is a girl in Thailand who in some ways has everything. She goes to a prestigious private school, lives in a nice house with a cook and driver, and has access to technology like an iPhone and laptop. On the other hand, her parents are entirely absent leaving Pleng to face disastrous floods on her own. Pleng's Song is the story of a girl forced to grow up and face reality through a series of harsh adventures.
Pleng's Song is fast-paced and easily read in a day. The author accurately captures the voice and attitude of a privileged adolescent girl. While Pleng is not an easy character to like at the beginning of the book, it quickly becomes clear that her story is more complex than that of a spoiled brat. The adults in Pleng's life tend to be cruel, absent, or both. I think kids could identify with many of her feelings even if her situation is far more extreme than theirs.
As an adult, I am clearly not in the target audience for this book and I wonder if the adult perspective leads me to be a bit more critical of the plot. I found parts of the story to be unrealistic in nature although they were related in a very realistic fashion. Pleng becomes famous after she is lost in the floods that ravage Thailand but why is she famous when so many others were lost as well? One simple line relates that her parents had called for a nation-wide search to find her but why would they do that when they had deceived and abandoned her for the majority of her life? Even when she is found and brought to safety, her parents do not show affection for her or make any attempt to apologize for the past.
I also wonder at Pleng's ability to survive on her own especially following a head injury. After a life filled with maids, drivers, private school, and technology it is hard to believe that she would suddenly develop the skills and knowledge necessary to survive in and out of the water for that long.
Despite these plot questions I enjoyed Pleng's Song a great deal. I think this book could be a great way to introduce children to another culture and to show the impact that natural disasters can have on a family and community.
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