Never Fall Down

Finalist, National Book Awards 2012 for Young People's Literature

Patricia McCormick's Never Fall Down book cover
ISBN 9780061730931
Balzer+Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers
Patricia McCormick author photo, Photo credit: Roberto Ligresti, 2006
Patricia McCormick

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When the Khmer Rouge arrive at his hometown in Cambodia, Arn is just a kid, dancing to rock ‘n’ roll, hustling for spare change, and selling ice cream with his brother. But after the soldiers march the entire population into the countryside, Arn is separated from his family and assigned to a labor camp. One day, the soldiers ask if any of the kids can play an instrument. In order to survive, Arn must quickly master the strange revolutionary songs the soldiers demand. This will save his life, but it will also pull him into the very center of what we know today as the Killing Fields. And just as the country is about to be liberated, Arn is handed a gun and forced to become a soldier. He lives by the simple credo: “Over and over I tell myself one thing: never fall down.” Based on the true story of Arn Chorn-Pond, this is an achingly raw and powerful novel about a child of war who becomes a man of peace.

Judges Citation

One day, Arn Chorn’s world is transformed into a moveable hell ruled by Angka and black-pajama soldiers, where again and again he must yield the price demanded to go on living. Based on interviews, the harsh vignettes of Cambodian life under the Khmer Rouge are indelible, as McCormick’s narrative never flinches from scenes of murderous anarchy, or from the consequences of a boy’s four-year quest to survive a nightmare by bending like grass and never falling down.

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