Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Boy, Everywhere

Dassu, A.M. Boy, Everywhere
March 23rd 2021 by Tu Books 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Sami has a happy and secure life in Damascus, Syria. His mother is a teacher, his father is a doctor, and he enjoys hanging out with his younger sister Sara and his grandmother, Tete. He is obsessed with video games and doccer, and spends a lot of time with his best friends, Joseph and George. When his mother and sister are injured in a bombing of the local mall while there picking up Sami's new soccer shoes, he is wracked with guilt. Sara stops talking, and soon his mother and father are acting in mysterious ways. They have decided to move, and start selling off furniture and cleaning out their apartment. Sami hopes he will continue to go to his school, and is quite surprised when he learns that the family is leaving the country. He feels that Damascus hasn't been as bad as Aleppo, and doesn't want to leave his friends, his grandmother, or all of his things. Soon, however, the family is involved in a dangerous journey that takes them to Istanbul, on a boat to Greece, on dodgy trucks, and finally on a flight into England. It has taken all of the money the father has saved, and since the family entered the country without proper paperwork, they are arrested and sent to an immigration prison while their paperwork is being sorted out. It helps that they have family friends willing to sponsor them, and the father will be able to work as a doctor, but the prison is a very dangerous place, and they must spend many tedious days waiting for everything to be arranged. Once they get out, they get a frosty welcome from Uncle Muhammad's family in Manchester; his wife Fatimah and son are downright cruel, while Iman is kind to Sara. The house is small, so the Sami and his family are in one room. Sami does find a friend, Ali, at school, although Hassan tries to make his life difficult there, too. Sami tries to e mail his friends and also Aadam, a slightly older boy they met on their journey whom they were only able to help a little. When Aadam shows up in Manchester and Sami brings him home, Fatimah tells the entire family to leave. Things are difficult enough for the parents, who are working in a factory and cleaning houses while waiting for paperwork, and the father yells at Sami. Sami is then determined to go back to Syria, where he feels more at home. Luckily, Ali and Aadam are able to show Sami that things will get better for him in Manchester. 
Strengths: In a note at the end of the book, the author explains that she wanted to show a Syrian student who had a much better life in Syria than he has in the UK, and who would rather have stayed that country, but was unable to. This is such an important point, and one which tween readers really need pointed out to them! Sami's love of video games, he obsession with his Nikes, and his unhappiness at being in England are all painfully and realistically explained, and it's very clear that the family did not want to leave the comfortable life they had, but felt they had no choice. There are helpful people along the way, such as David, a guard at the prison, but also people like Hassan who have no sympathy at all. This was a hard book to read, but such an important one. Very well researched and written. 
Weaknesses: I wish this had been a tiny bit shorter; while all of the information is really good, it's hard to get some of my readers to pick up a book that's 400 pages long. It certainly moved quickly, so hopefully they can be persuaded. 
What I really think: This was an excellent book, and a great companion to Senzai's Escape from Aleppo. That book is set in 2013; this is set in 2015-16, and has great details about how difficult it is from people from war torn countries to even make it to Europe, as well as an in-depth discussion of the challenges faced when they try to settle into a life in another place. Definitely purchasing, and hope that this will be available in paperback so that teachers can use it as a literature circle choice. Add this to the growing number of books about Syrian refugees that includes Warga's Other Words for Home, Ferruolo's Ruby in the Sky, Brown's The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees, Marsh's Nowhere Boy, McLean's Team Fugee, Hitchcock and Senzai's Flying Over Water, Mitchell's Without Refuge, Saaed's Yara's Spring, Rauf's The Boy at the Back of the Class

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