After narrowly surviving an airstrike, Ghalib suddenly finds himself being forced to join the Kurdish Protection Units or else risk his life fleeing to Europe.
Ghalib wanted nothing more than to become a pharmacist like his father. Instead, he spends his days dodging barrel bombs and missiles. The city of Kobani, where Ghalib lives with his family, is constantly under attack, leaving little left of the once-vibrant hub of Kurdish life. Ghalib refuses to be another soldier in the Syrian war, so instead he and his family embark on a harrowing journey to escape what was once their home. The arduous path to safety crosses through dangerous Islamic State–held territory and the Turkish border, where only steadfast courage and exceptional luck can get travelers out alive. Along the way, Ghalib will find himself separated and alone, searching for any sign of home among the thousands of refugees fleeing for their lives. Through everything, one question continues to linger in the back of Ghalib’s mind: Will Europe let us in? Writing in Ghalib’s present-tense voice, Mitchell pens a vivid narrative of the displacement, loss, and sheer bravery of Syrian children traversing land and sea, surviving bullets, bombs, and the tumultuous Mediterranean to begin a new life. While this part of the story excels, Mitchell glosses over the humanitarian crimes of all of the warring parties in Syria, emphasizing those of the Islamic State over the Syrian government’s, which leads readers new to the subject to believe that the main perpetrators of violence are Islamist groups.
Read for the sympathetic portrayal of Syrian refugees, but look elsewhere for geopolitical nuance. (Fiction. 10-14)