All The Young Warriors is a change for author Anthony Neil Smith. His previous novels and novellas have been very much in the noir and hardboiled genre. This one is more the international intrigue thriller, though with a faster pace than most.
The story kicks off in Minnesota where two cops are killed by a gangbanger named Jibriil after pulling him and his friend Adem over. Adem has nothing to do with the murder, other than as a very unwilling witness. The two boys, of Somalian descent, flee to Somalia to fight for the country and the Muslim faith. Once there, Jibriil takes to the life like a duck to water, whilst Adem finds the culture shock too much.
One of the cops Jibriil killed was the girlfriend of detective Ray Bleeker and was carrying his child. Like anybody in that situation he carries a real urge for revenge. He ends up linking up with Mustafa, Adem’s father, who’s convinced of his son’s innocence, and they pursue the boys to Somalia and find that the things are going to get very difficult and very bloody before everything is done.
ATYW is definitely the finest novel that I’ve read by Smith. It marks a clear progression from Yellow Medicine and its sequel Hogdoggin’ (both strong works). It’s definitely the work of a more mature writer – almost as if moving to a bigger canvas, one that involves research, helped sharpen his focus as a storyteller and hone his ability to write clearly defined characters. It also has more heart and soul than his two Billy Lafitte novels, so when bad things happen to the main characters they carry a real emotional punch. It’s a very good thriller with an excellent narrative pace, and recently won Smith an award at the Spintinglers. ATYW comes highly recommended.