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Hostage Three



Riveting story of teen hostage falling for Somali pirate.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Hostage Three offers some background on Somalia's political history and the reasons for the rise of piracy there. Through Amy's memories of her scientist mother, readers also will learn something about the solar system.

Positive messages

It's possible to recover from tragedy and loss. You can mend yourself, even if you feel broken. There are two sides to every story.

Positive role models

Amy is reeling from the suicide of her mother and her father's apparent indifference to her, and she exhibits a lot of negative behavior as a direct reaction to her sadness. However, through the extreme situation she's put in as a hostage, she begins to take a renewed interest in her own life and feel empathy for others.


One pirate attempts a rape. Another pirate shoots the rapist dead during his attempt. Throughout Hostage Three, Amy and the other hostages are threatened with death if they don't comply with the pirates, and AK-47s are frequently waved around. An American helicopter explodes a Somali truck, killing several people. Amy remembers her mother committing suicide by throwing herself off a building.


Amy makes out with a Somali pirate, and they take off some of their clothes but don't have sex. An older man's attentions make Amy feel uncomfortable. 


Some occurrences of "f--k" and "dick."


Many brand names are mentioned in passing, including Mulberry luggage; Cartier, Chanel, and Rolex jewelry; Ralph Lauren and Prada clothing; Clinique; and BlackBerry.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Amy talks about how she used to go out drinking and clubbing with her friends in England. Her mother let Amy drink alcohol when she was underage, but her dad disapproved. The Somalis all chew khat, a stimulant drug popular in Africa that's illegal in the United States. The pirates and Amy smoke cigarettes, and many of the pirates get drunk during a party.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Hostage Three, by Printz Award-winning author Nick Lake (In Darkness), is about a teen girl who's taken hostage, along with her dad and stepmother, by Somali pirates in 2009. The pirates threaten the family with guns and ransom them for several million dollars. Amy talks about her days of drinking and clubbing, and the Somalis all chew the stimulant khat and smoke cigarettes. There's an attempted rape, and one pirate is killed. Amy falls in love with another pirate, though she realizes this may be a case of identifying with her captor. 

Parents say

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What's the story?

HOSTAGE THREE opens on the deck of a yacht, with a gun being held to 17-year-old Amy's head by a Somali pirate. The narrative flashes between Amy's previous life in England and the frightening situation on the boat. Back home, Amy, a talented violinist, has been purposely messing up her future ever since her mother committed suicide, and she's decidedly unenthusiastic when her father proposes they take a family yacht trip around the world with her new stepmother. When the pirates attack, she finds herself drawn to Farouz, one of the Somalis. Though her feelings are conflicted, she and Farouz grow close, and Amy's able to talk about her mother for the first time since her suicide. Farouz in turn opens up to Amy about his difficult life in war-ridden Somali. Their growing closeness is severely tested when the time comes for the exchange of hostages and ransom.

Is it any good?


Just as in his award-winning debut, In Darkness, author Nick Lake's strength here is in making the reader understand the desperation that drives his characters to take violent and illegal actions. The pacing is taut and exciting, as the narrative alternates between the tense action of the pirates taking over Amy's father's yacht and demanding a ransom for its passengers and Amy's memories of her mother before she committed suicide. Characters are multifaceted and there are no easy answers, which makes for a fascinating story that will give readers something to think about.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the depiction of Somali pirates in Hostage Three compared with the movie Captain Phillips. What are the differences and similarities between the two?

  • Why do you think novels and movies about real-world news events and issues such as Somali piracy are so intriguing?

  • Given what Farouz explains about Somali history, do you think there's justification for these former fishermen becoming pirates?

Book details

Author:Nick Lake
Topics:Adventures, Pirates
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:November 12, 2013
Number of pages:384
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17
Available on:Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 13 years old Written bysnp46 January 2, 2014

Great book, but drinking and smoking are a theme

Early in the book, Amy shows up to school with piercings, which are not allowed. After being given a warning, she lights a cigarette in the gym. She is sent off campus. She also mentions clubbing and returning home completely drunk. In one scene she wakes up hungover. The book is exciting and great, but has a considerable amount of drinking and smoking. One thing that makes this better is that it does not necessarily make drinking look glorious or cool. There is also some language.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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