By N.H. Senzai
Paula Wiseman Books, 2018
Contemporary middle grade
Additional formats: ebook
Nadia’s family knows what they need to do when the bombs start falling in their neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria. After all, this isn’t the first time they’ve been caught in the violence. They pack quickly and begin to head for their predetermined meeting point in the city–but Nadia panics, hiding under a car as a bomb hits her building, forcing her family to leave her behind, possibly for dead. When Nadia wakes up, she is alone.
Thus begins a young girl’s trek through the dangerous city of Aleppo in search of her family. She makes it to the store where they were supposed to meet and finds a message from them in case she is alive: they have survived, and will wait for her at the Turkish border. Nadia, one of the most fearless and street-smart kids I’ve ever read, doesn’t hesitate to begin her journey to Turkey, a small girl facing the dangers from both rebels and government soldiers, as well as exposure and starvation.
Nadia is accompanied by a collection of heart-warming side characters, all of whom have their own stories and secrets. She never gives up, never gets hopeless, and never thinks she won’t make it. And along the way, through flashbacks and character conversations, the reader develops Syria’s background photo: how violence broke out during the Arab Spring, how it has spread and how other countries have inserted themselves into the conflict, how normal civilians in Syria have been affected and displaced, forced to flee their homes.
At its heart, this is an adventure story: a young girl must beat the odds to find her family. But it also provides the historical background on a conflict we’re all watching unfold on the news every night. It’s the best of both worlds: informative and educational, but also just a plain engrossing, unputdownable story. – AN