Monday, June 15, 2009

Scared by Tom Davis (review)

Scared by Tom Davis
Copyright 2009
David C. Cook - Fiction
304 pages, incl. author interview
Publisher's website

First things first: Scared is by far the most powerful, moving, gut-wrenching, amazing book I've read in 2009.

Second: If you know Oprah, give her a call. Till I read this book, I didn't understand why Oprah focuses her efforts on education in Africa when there's so much wrong in Mississippi, why she only seems to zip into her home state on rare occasions for $1000-a-plate dinners and then zips right back out. Okay, admittedly, I still don't get the fact that she spends so little time using her powerful voice to encourage changes in education, here, but still . . . now I do get the focus on Africa. This is the kind of book that needs and deserves powerhouse backing because Scared explains it all.

The story:

Years ago, photojournalist Stuart Daniels traveled to the African Congo and ended up in the midst of a rebellion. While he snapped a photo that would earn him prizes and accolades for years, his friend was dying of a gunshot wound. The trauma and guilt have made Stuart a mess. His marriage is in trouble and his job is on the line. To keep from losing his job, Stuart must travel back to Africa -- this time to Swaziland, a country where people are dying of AIDS in droves, leaving behind starving orphans. He needs to snap a "money photo" -- something that will tell a story and make money for the newspaper.

Stuart meets up with a journalist named Gordon, who lost his family to violence but has stayed in Swaziland. Gordon translates and guides Stuart as they visit the care sites where starving citizens wait for food that doesn't arrive. And, Stuart meets little Adanna.

Her mother is dying of AIDS and 12-year-old Adanna must feed her little brother and sister. She has a beautiful smile and is a talented writer. She has dreamed of an illuminated man, who tells her someday she will be free from the horror she faces each day. With no adults willing or able to protect her, she is vulnerable to violent abuse. There is nothing she can do to stop the evil men from hurting her.

Adanna touches Stuart deeply. This time, he will not simply stand by and watch. As he tries to do his part to help the starving people of Adanna's village, tragedy after tragedy continues to unfold. Will Stuart be able to both help the people, save Adanna's little family and restore his own tattered heart?

Scared is absolutely the most shocking book I've read in 2009 because it's based on reality and the reality is horrific. I go out of my way to avoid books with images of graphic violence. Usually, I don't think they serve a purpose and I don't like the nightmares they induce. This book is the opposite: it's brutal because it has to be.

This is the first work of fiction Tom Davis has written and it's not perfect, but it's close. Those rare bits that I didn't like were so brief that I was really kind of stunned when I found out it's his first novel. You could say that the way he piled one disaster upon another seems unrealistic. The author, however, has been to Swaziland and has made it his mission to spread the word. Perhaps it's hard for some of us to realize reality can be that awful. Photojournalist Kevin Carter couldn't live with the pain he saw in Africa, even after winning a Pulitzer.
5/5 - Absolutely the moving, touching, meaningful book I've read in 2009. I've read 92 books, so far this year, and Scared has just become my #1 read of the year. Could. Not. Put. Down.

Side note: There's a Christian theme that you can't miss, but Stuart has long since lost his faith when the story of his trip to Swaziland begins. I found the explanation of why he lost hope among the most realistic and believable stories I've ever read and I don't think the book is in any way preachy, although it could be considered spiritual. If you're not a Christian and Christianity in a novel puts you off, I'd like to suggest that this book is worth setting your personal preferences aside. There are some elements that could be considered "paranormal" instead of Christian. Think of it that way, if you like.


  1. Wow! As I was reading your synopsis I was wondering if it was a true story. It's so fantastic, I figured it was.

  2. Oh, what a glowing review! I'm adding this one to my list, although with some trepidation. The tension from your review is incredibly high!

  3. Kathy,

    It's fiction, but it's based on fact. The author interview at the back of the book (which is also available somewhere else -- either at his website or the publisher's website, I think) explains how he came up with the general idea and how a beautiful little girl with a huge smile touched his heart. I hope you'll read it!


    It's a really rough read, but I couldn't put it down -- definitely plenty of tension in the book. Occasionally, I realized I was holding my breath and my shoulders were practicaly up by my ears. LOL It's so good, though.

  4. Anonymous1:35 PM

    I guess I'm sold, in spite of the Christian elements. If there's too much of that stuff in there, I will come back to harass you!

  5. Chartroose,

    Okay. You can harass me all you like. Just read the book, first. :)

  6. Definitely need to see if my library has this one! Man, I wish I knew Oprah hmm maybe not. ;)

    Yet this book sounds like a good one.

  7. Wow! Have you considered a job in marketing or publicity?! I'm sold! I'm going to recommend this to my book club for our August read. It sounds fantastic. Do you think it's a good discussion book? As I read your review, I kept thinking about when you raved about Anderson Cooper's memoir. I was sold then, too, and it became my #1 read that year. I trust you on this one, too. Thanks, Nancy!

  8. Les,

    Um, uh, well. If someone asked, I wouldn't say "no" because I'm bored and I need a job, but . . . not really. LOL Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed the review! I did gush about the Anderson Cooper book, didn't I? Loved that one.

  9. Les,

    I completely forgot to answer your question about whether or not it would be a good discussion book. I think there's a lot to talk about, but it's very possible everyone would just be left speechless with horror. I'd advise reading it, first.

  10. Krista,

    Double oopsy. I'm not ignoring you. I'm having one of those days. I wish you knew Oprah, too.

    It's excellent. Painful reading, but so, so good.

  11. This is going on my list. Thanks, Nancy!

  12. Wow. High praise. Sounds like a tough but really good book.

    Finished THE UNIT last night. Will be posting a review soon!!!

    (Life by Candlelight)

  13. Nikki,

    It's a hard read, but a good one!!


    Yes to both. Difficult reading, but very good.

    Oh, good! I may get back to The Unit, tonight. I'll look forward to reading your review.

  14. Oh my, oh my!

    1. Holly's Inbox (Denham) ~ Chick-lit
    2. Scared (Davis) ~ Realistic Fiction

    You have been breezing through the books lately! And how great is that to get some major winners in the bunch!?! Keep 'em comin'. :)


  15. Joy,

    Yeeks. I hope you like them. I'm always nervous when you acquire on my recommendation 'cause I know you well enough to know you're completely unpredictable. LOL

    Yep, this has been a good year. I think alloweing myself to ditch the books that aren't clicking for me has meant I'm enjoying my reading more, so I'm reading a little faster.

  16. Um, first--92 books? Sometimes I think maybe I'm just not using my time effectively enough. Want to be my time management coach? Pretty please? Wait, would we have to cut out The Office and the hour of The Cake Boss I watched today? I don't watch a lot of TV, but I just couldn't pull myself away!

    Second: "I've read 92 books, so far this year, and Scared has just become my #1 read of the year. Could. Not. Put. Down."

    Putting it on the list RIGHT NOW. Your review was beautiful and powerful and heartwrenching--can only imagine what the actual book is like!

  17. WHY oh why can't I find this on Amazon or B& You're going to make me pull out that old pen and paper. *shakes head*

  18. Trish,

    This has been a pretty big reading year for me. I'm really a very slow reader. Basically, it just means we've got really large laundry piles and the house is falling apart. Otherwise, everything's great. You don't have to give up TV, but you do need to combine exercise with TV, if at all possible. Aren't I helpful? LOL Since my life is a mess, I have a den with nothing but a TV, display case and an exercise bike . . . on concrete. We're so abnormal.

    Scared is available through Amazon. Look up "Scared Tom Davis". I think just the word "scared" brings up too many other possibilities. It's also subtitled "A Novel on the Edge of the World," but I've never needed to type in the subtitle for it to pop up. Just title and author's name.

  19. Anonymous9:19 AM

    I totally agree with your paragraph about why not get things solved in Mississippi first, but I'm way interested in your review. As a teacher, I think I must pick this up. It's hard to read such brutal things, but I can't stay buried away either.

  20. Bellezza,

    There's a lot wrong with education in Mississippi -- and probably in the U.S. -- but to not have access to clean water, not even be able to plant a small plot of crops and have to simply accept whatever the men want to do to you (whether you're a young girl or a married woman) is so much worse than most of our youngsters have to deal with. Education isn't even in the picture for a lot of them. I understand, now, why Oprah has spent so much money establishing schools.

    What I don't get is those rare visits to her home state. Last time I heard she came to Jackson, she was only in town for a few hours, for dinner. I think the money was to go to some cause, but it just seems so strange to me that you don't hear or see her making a presence in her home state. Maybe it's too painful for her.

  21. Oh wow, this sounds excellent. It's not the type of story I'm drawn to generally because well it's not necessarily an easy read but it sounds like it's one that shouldn't be missed. Loved your review and am adding this to my radar!

  22. Iliana,

    It's not my typical read, either, and definitely not easy subject matter. But, I think it's a really good book and one that needs to be read. Last year, when someone had a Darfur reading challenge going, I avoided it. I'd imagine the harshness is much the same. Maybe someday I'll get around to reading that Darfur memoir that made me cringe! And, thank you. :)

  23. Wow! Sounds really good :)! I am adding this to my TBR! :)

  24. Veens,

    It's really good -- hard reading, though.


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