SMILING FOR STRANGERS by Gaye Hicyilmaz

SMILING FOR STRANGERS

Age Range: 10 - 12
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Exhibiting a shrewdness born from desperation, a fourteenyearold girl makes the hazardous journey from the wartorn countryside outside of Sarajevo to the safety of England. Knowing the war might soon force them to flee their rustic hideaway, Nina and her grandfather sleep on the back veranda with their bags packed. This part of the book is vividly rendered and crammed with extraordinary details that beautifully illuminate their daytoday struggle. For example, Nina's grandfather scatters objects along the path to their hideout so that visitors will make enough noise stumbling to alert them to possible danger. But, the story loses steam at its heart, when Nina has to escape the country, hoping for sanctuary from a friend of her now-deceased mother in Sussex, England. Her grandfather advises her to join an aid convoy that is being turned back, obtaining help by choosing a person whom she thinks `will say yes` to her plea for assistance, then asking that person nicely for help. Flashing `her most brilliant, grownup smile,` Nina is helped and hindered by various people with perplexing and ambiguous agendas. She finally makes it to Sussex and is taken in by her mother's friend, but the situation between them is rife with misunderstandings. It's impossible not to feel sympathy for this poor child who has been through so much, and Hicyilmaz (The Frozen Waterfall, 1994, pointer) renders her situation with a welcome complexity. Yet, the flesh and blood Nina remains emotionally out of reach, inhibiting the reader from making a true connection. (Historical fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: April 24th, 2000
ISBN: 0-374-37081-8
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2000