Geedi has the seer gift. He can see disaster coming as well as the routes of ships at sea. When one morning one of the three rusty tankers disappeared from the beach, the “big blue dead man”, as the Yusra children call it, he knew immediately that something was wrong here. Something is wrong with his big brother Aayan, who disappeared five years ago. In the village they say that Aayan went to the pirates.
Geedi is 15, a boy from Hafun, a small island off the Horn of Africa in northeast Somalia. The civil war is far away, but the misery is not. Polluted soils, overturned waters in the Gulf of Aden and in the Indian Ocean, overfished and also poisoned by European chemical waste – agriculture and fisheries lie fallow. Geedi’s parents live hand to mouth, making food for the clans.
After all, Geedi can go to school, unlike his clever little sister Amina. But he misses his brother and dreams of joining the pirates too. Lo and behold, Aayan surprisingly turns up at home. Geedi promptly slips away in the pick-up when his brother is picked up again in the night. The sea piracy in Somalia, the criminal buccaneer’s life as an adventure novel, is that possible?
“In Somalia we are all pirates,” says Brother Aayan. “Whether you provide the clans with banquets in Puntland, whether you fight with the army in Mogadishu or with the rebels of Al Shabaab.” It is the fate of the children of Somalia “that you always do the wrong thing, even though it’s the right thing.” .
Soon Geedi is doing the right thing wrong too. He hijacks ships with the Yusra’s crew, and his visionary skills are of great help. He only needs to close his eyes to know what is about to happen. He calls it an extended gut feeling, he shares the talent with his brother. Geedi can even spot islands that are not on any nautical chart.
It turns out that Aayan is none other than the legendary Nidar, the “honorable” leader of those buccaneers who raid cargo ships with motorboats in order to sell the loot, platinum or gold, to fences. But they don’t kidnap hostages for ransom, unlike Dayax, the “bad” pirate.
Andreas Brettschneider, born in 1974, certainly poses moral questions in his novel for young adults, Even Young Leopards Have Spots, even if he overemphasizes the difference between Aayan’s gang and the unscrupulous pirates who also torture and murder their hostages. It is poverty, the poverty for which the western world is partly responsible, that forces people in Somalia to commit crimes.
At the same time, he manages to tell an exciting adventure full of action and conflict, but also intensely atmospheric, without playing down piracy. Hovering in mortal danger, also endangering loved ones like the little sister. Learn to shoot, both at ships and at people. Being a victim and a perpetrator, having to experience how people die – the novel doesn’t omit any of that. He looks closely, but doesn’t overwhelm young readers. Whether it is to explore the horizon, your own dreams or the fear in your bones, it happens on an equal footing with Geedi. With a child who must not be a child.