My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Published: May 8th, 2018
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Recommended Age: 8+
Genres & Themes: Middle Grade, Education, Family, Justice, Work, Culture
Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when–as the eldest daughter–she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens–after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt. Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal–especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.
If everyone decided nothing could change, nothing ever would.
There’s no denying that this is an important book.
There’s no denying that the world is a better place with stories like this one being told.
This is the sort of book that I could see myself throwing at people because I certainly want a higher amount of the world population to understand how essential education is in a girl’s life. I want us all to stop taking it for granted. Just yesterday I was looking at my unofficial transcript, thinking, ‘‘Only two more years and I’m out.’’
Shame! Shame! Shame! Some people don’t get to go to high school, let alone university, and here you are counting the days until you get your diploma? You should enjoy yourself, because school isn’t forever, and sometimes not-forever comes sooner than expected, as it is the case for Amal.
All she did was say no. She stood up for herself, denying a grown man the fruit she had purchased for her family. Now it could have been worse. The man could have taken it – or her – on the spot and give nothing in return. But Amal had had enough, so she spoke up.
Her punishment? Becoming a servant for the same man who wanted the fruit and eventually took everything from her: her family, friends, and above all, her education. Except, Amal is a smart twelve-year-old girl… She’ll figure something out to not let her brain rot and spend her whole life imprisoned.
I know for a fact that Amal and I could become best friends in real life. Like me, she is outspoken, she stands up for what she believes in, she doesn’t quite have a filter, and she makes the most of any situation. She makes this book. Without her, nothing would make sense.
But here’s the catch: Although I can praise the themes all day long, it doesn’t change the fact that the writing is only adequate, the secondary characters two-dimensional, and the events (main ones aside) somewhat dull.
A character-driven, realistic middle grade story that could have been more engaging, but that managed to bring forward and explore universal themes.
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