By School Library Journal
“I didn’t realize how good life was until it all went wrong” Eighth grader Sami al-Hafez leads a privileged life in Damascus, Syria. His biggest concern used to be whether he and his best friend would make the soccer team. But when his mother and younger sister are injured in a bombing of a local shopping mall, Sami and his family realize that the Syrian civil war is now at their doorstep and they must leave their home. The author not only chronicles Sami’s perilous journey from Syria, through Turkey and Greece, and eventually to England, but the difficulty of leaving loved ones behind and starting anew in a country where the laws and people aren’t so welcoming. Short chapters help keep the pace of this first-person narrative moving, even when we see Sami waiting for circumstances to change—a situation that is reinforced throughout the story as common to being a refugee. For readers who enjoyed Katherine Marsh’s Nowhere Boy or Jasmine Warga’s Other Words for Home, this book also offers a fresh perspective and a relatable main character. The text could be paired with Don Brown’s graphic nonfiction title The Unwanted for academic purposes. VERDICT Dassu provides a fresh perspective on the Syrian refugee experience, giving readers a glimpse at a range of ordeals. Recommended for purchase.