THE SERVANT

Fans of literary and historical fiction will be drawn to this rich portrayal of the challenges faced and opportunities...

First published in Arabic in 2010, this is the compelling story of a determined young woman coming of age during the Lebanese civil war in 1987.

Faten is a mere 15 when she first makes the long trip from her mountain village to Beirut, where her father has arranged for her to work as a maid to help the family make ends meet. For two years, she does nothing but work, keeping none of the money she earns and getting only a few hours per week to herself. Unsatisfied with this life, Faten longs to go to university to become a nurse. Eventually, she makes contact with Marwan, a handsome neighbor who helps her to arrange to take the exams she’ll need to get into college. But when she sneaks away to take the first of the tests, she is caught and fired from her job. Chastened, Faten returns to her village, where she must try to secure her father’s understanding, or at least forgiveness, and make her way back to Beirut to pursue her dream. Sharafeddine tells the story in a deliberate, third-person, present-tense voice, creating a narrative with an old-fashioned, rather formal feel and a clear preference for women’s self-determination and independence.

Fans of literary and historical fiction will be drawn to this rich portrayal of the challenges faced and opportunities forged by brave young women in patriarchal, war-torn Lebanon. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 9781554983070

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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