They Called Me Red cover

Young Adult Fiction (Grades 9-12)

Devon has a fairly typical life – his mom isn't on the scene, but his father does a great job being Dad AND Mom. He wasn't prepared for Lily to come along and enchant his dad with her giggles and shy glances. She soon moves in – and takes over. Devon's father suddenly falls ill, and when western doctors can't find the problem, Lily insists all three of them travel to her native Vietnam, where her uncle can treat him. Once in her family's tiny apartment, Lily forces Devon away from his father, and makes him drink some musky tea that is supposed to calm him. It is only when Devon wakes up in a locked room that he begins to realize his suspicions about Lily weren't nearly as horrific as who she really is, and what she has done.

Within days, Devon finds himself in a different location, still locked up, with three other young boys. Through hushed conversations in broken English and Vietnamese, Devon learns that he is now the property of a restaurant-owner named Long, and that he has been transported to Cambodia. As the nightmare worsens, the reality that this restaurant doubles as a brothel sets in. Because of his fiery red hair and freckles, Long is able to demand a higher price for him, and her customers start a bidding war. With the memory of his father and his old life keeping him from complete despair, Devon manages to hope for escape or rescue. Back home, those close to Devon refuse to believe Lily's lies about him “running away” in Vietnam, and an international search effort begins. Once found, the challenges continue, as Devon faces a new life without his father, and a new identity molded by unspeakable memories.

Praise for They Called Me Red

  • Kilbourne gets the dread across ... [and] the storyline is handled tactfully; fear and circumstances of imprisonment are the main focuses.
    ForeWord, Nov. 2008
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Awards and Recognitions

  • Included in the Canadian Children's Book Centre's annual issue of Best Books for Kids and Teens 2009 (under Young Adult fiction)
  • Nominated for a Sasketchewan Young Reader's Choice Award - Snow Willow Award 2010