Book Review by Kirin Nabi
In a very crowded field of refugee-themed books, this 400 page middle grades/early middle school novel sets itself apart by really focusing on the quality of life enjoyed in Syria compared to the life of a refugee on the move and in getting reestablished as an immigrant. Where other books allude to how things in Syria got worse and then perhaps focus more on the horrific journey desperate individuals are forced to take, this book is very direct in showing the young protagonist’s daily life in Damascus and really cementing in the notion for western privileged readers, that loosing everything could happen to anyone. The book does show hardships on the perilous journey by truck and boat, as well as showing that life in England isn’t immediately better. Side characters throughout the book show diverse opinions and strengths that, for the preteen target demographic, would provide starting points for wonderful discussion and dialogue to take place. Overall, the book does a decent job of not falling into the same cliché narrative even though the book does have a hopeful and happy ending.
Sami is the 13-year-old son of a surgeon and principal. He has a little sister, a best friend, a desire to be on the football (soccer) team, the latest Air Jordans, a love of video games, his iPad, and a very comfortable life. When he orders the newest soccer shoes to wear for tryouts and begs his mom to go pick them up from the mall, the Syrian civil war, which has seemed an arm’s length away, comes to Damascus and to Sami. The mall is bombed while his mom and little sister are getting his shoes and while they survive, Sara is traumatized and stops speaking. The family decides immediately and secretly that they have to leave. Sami is kept slightly in the dark and thus, so is the reader as to how quick everything must be liquidated and how uncertain the future is for the family. Continue reading.
Boy, Everywhere by A. M. Dassu
Published by Tu Books on 2021
Genres: Muslim, Refugees, War
Reading Level: Grades 6-8
Review Source: Islamic School Librarian
Publisher's Synopsis: What turns citizens into refugees and then immigrants? In this powerful middle-grade debut, Sami and his family embark on a harrowing journey to save themselves from the Syrian civil war.
Sami loves his life in Damascus, Syria. He hangs out with his best friend playing video games; he's trying out for the football team; he adores his family and gets annoyed by them in equal measure. But his comfortable life gets sidetracked abruptly after a bombing in a nearby shopping mall. Knowing that the violence will only get worse, Sami's parents decide they must flee their home for the safety of the UK.
Boy, Everywhere chronicles their harrowing journey and struggle to settle in a new land. Forced to sell all their belongings and leave their friends and beloved grandmother behind, Sami and his family travel across the Middle East to Turkey, where they end up in a smuggler's den. From there, they cross the treacherous waters of the Mediterranean and manage to fly to England, only to be separated and detained in an immigration prison for the crime of seeking asylum. Yet the transition from refugee to immigrant in a new life will be the greatest challenge Sami has ever faced.
Based on the experiences of real Syrian refugees, this thoughtful middle-grade novel is the rare book to delve deeply into this years-long crisis. A. M. Dassu has used her publishing deal advances for Boy, Everywhere to assist Syrian refugees in her city and set up a grant to support an unpublished refugee/recently immigrated writer. Sami's story is one of survival, of family and friendship, of bravery and longing ... Sami could be any one of us.