Ishmael Beah was a child soldier for the Sierra Leone Armed Services during the civil war with the RUF, the Revolutionary United Front, known as the rebels. The rebels are blamed for the death of Ishmael's family, and his soldiering is motivated by his desire for revenge.
Ishmael's story is one of personal transformation and survival. Before the war, he enjoys a happy childhood in his village. During the war, he becomes a killing machine capable of horrible acts of violence. When UNICEF rescues the boy soldiers from the front lines of war, Ishmael is rehabilitated. Through the love and compassion of his nurse and extended family, Ishmael learns to manage his anger and to forgive himself for the war that wasn't his fault. He learns to accept the help of others and to use his story to educate the world about the atrocities of how war affects children.