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by N.H. Senzai

Age Range: 9 - 14

Pub Date: June 22nd, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4424-0194-5
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

As 11-year-old Fadi Nurzai and his family escape from Afghanistan in the summer of 2001, the Taliban show up, forcing their truck driver to take off abruptly, and Fadi’s little sister Mariam is accidentally left behind. Mother, father, older sister Noor and Fadi all blame themselves as they make their way to California. Fadi’s goal becomes finding a way to go back and rescue Mariam, and he sees a chance in a local photography contest, one prize being a trip to India. Debut novelist Senzai crafts a wrenching tale, based on her husband’s Soviet-era experience, putting a human face on the war in Afghanistan. Though the blending of fiction and exposition is uneasy at times, and the resolution too quick and reliant on coincidence, it’s an ambitious story with much to offer: a likable protagonist in Fadi, an original and engaging plot and a lens through which readers will learn much about the current conflict. A great match with Suzanne Fisher Staples’s Under the Persimmon Tree (2005) and Deborah Ellis’s Breadwinner Trilogy. (map, author’s note, further reading, websites) (Fiction. 9-14)