By Publishers Weekly
Sami, 13, has grown up an average middle-class Syrian boy, playing video games and hanging out with his best friend Joseph. Though much of the country has been torn apart by civil war, Damascus, Sami’s home, has remained intact thus far. That changes, however, with terrifying news: the shopping center has been bombed—with Sami’s mother and sister Sara inside. Though they survive the blast, the family decides to seek refugee status in England, realizing how precarious their situation in Syria has become. Dassu’s accessible debut follows Sami and his family along their sweeping journey from Syria, through Turkey and Greece, to Manchester in the U.K. There, Sami struggles with past guilt amid the new environment, away from the luxuries of the home he was forced to leave behind. The novel explores Sami’s preference for his Syrian life over his U.K. one, in which he must share a room with a bullying cousin and believes that his professional parents are “losing their self-respect”; Dassu presents a well-balanced portrayal of the range of attitudes a refugee might encounter. Though the fast-paced plot occasionally skips over narrative details, strongly evoked themes of family, homesickness, and friendship cohere in this resonant portrait of one teen’s contemporary refugee experience. Back matter includes a glossary and author’s note.