The author of the Breadwinner trilogy turns from fictional Afghani children to real ones.
The 10- to 17-year-olds interviewed for this collection mostly don't remember the Taliban's fall more than a decade ago, but they can't help but be shaped by the damage the Taliban did to their country. In a country that's been at war for more than 30 years, childhood is very different—or is it? After an over-earnest opening, with teens who have overcome great hardship and want only to succeed in school, this collection diversifies. Parwais has never been to school and wants only to keep his warm, dry job as a museum cleaner. Palwasha, who studies computer science at university, plays for the Afghan Women's National Football Team and aims "to become the best referee in Afghanistan." Fareeba doesn't speak for herself; the mental-hospital inmate has a cognitive disability and no access to the medical or educational opportunities that might help her find language. Angela, meanwhile, attends American University in Kabul and hopes to attend Brown. One girl is imprisoned for fleeing a forced child marriage, while another's mother is a member of Parliament; one boy's damaged by a landmine, and another's proud to be a Scout. The most cutting words are those of 14-year-old Shabona: "Do you have war in Canada? Maybe it is your turn, then." Clear introductions to each young person provide historical, legal and social context. This nuanced portrayal of adolescence in a struggling nation refrains, refreshingly, from wallowing in tragedy tourism and overwrought handwringing.
Necessary. (Nonfiction. 10-14)