Never Fall Down is a young adult book based on the true story of Arn Chorn-Pond, a child of war from Cambodia to a man of peace. Patricia McCormick has written other powerful books about tough subjects for young adults such as Sold, about a girl sold into prostitution in Nepal. Never Fall Down is the painful story of an ordinary boy in Cambodia who barely survives the Killing Fields by the Khmer Rouge as a child soldier. He survives by his wits, luck, and the credo: never fall down. Arn is separated from his family at the beginning but before he loses them his Aunt advises him: “Do whatever they say. Be like the grass. Bend low, bend low, then bend lower. The wind blow one way, you blow that way. That is the way to survive. No crying. Cry only in your mind”. ( Never Fall Down, p. 37)
Arn survives by pretending to know how to play an instrument,the Khim, and thus, play the revolutionary songs to entertain the soldiers. He survives to witness the genocide of his people. His story is told in sparse, child-like, new to english style which is very effective as I felt like he was speaking his story. Arn does survive and make it to America but with consequences. McCormick does not polish his words, descriptions or story, an effective tool in conveying the truths of the Killing Field. The writing can be read by young adult but the content is disturbing. That said, I will have my 12, 13,16, & 19 year olds read this story without apology and then recommend it to my adult friends…followed by The Shadow of the Banyan Tree by Vaddey Ratner. Tracy’s 2 cents.