Abdi’s feelings of guilt begin when his brother Dahir is kidnapped by the jihadi group Al Shabaab in Mogadishu, Somalia, and he believes it is his fault.
When American government operatives capture Abdi and his family and offer him a deal—their freedom in exchange for his infiltrating Al Shabaab—he believes he hasn’t much choice. Dahir has risen in the ranks, making Abdi useful to those hunting the group’s leaders. Abdi’s account shifts between his time undercover and his present in Sangui City, Kenya, following his escape. Sam, a white American working with the United Nations who is grappling with her own guilt over leaving a Christian cult, meets Abdi and finds him a place in a refugee girls’ boarding school by day, allowing him to sleep in her spare room. News of a possible placement in a foster family triggers an emotional deluge in which Abdi reveals all he’s been through. In a dramatic climax, Abdi must decide whether family and trust will triumph over fear. At times the dialogue between Sam and Abdi feels fanciful and the story drags with unnecessary detail, with some characters feeling underdeveloped. However, this is a riveting account of young people living through violence which successfully illustrates the nuance of intent among the jihadi fighters.
Greed, guilt, and redemption are layered in a sober yet tender narrative showing the lengths one will go to for loved ones. (Fiction. 14-18)