A Rohingya boy copes with abandonment.
When his family flees the violence affecting their village in Myanmar, 13-year-old Jabair is left behind (the reason why is never clarified). Hungry, exhausted, and dispirited, he is so furious with his mother (his father has died) that he refuses to read the letters she sends from the refugee camp where she now lives with his siblings. A local man nominally watches over him, teaching him how to read and write. Jabair clings to life, filled with rage about his abandonment, until he meets Zahura, a 14-year-old girl whose past is just as haunted as his own. But when Jabair’s mother invites him to join her in Thailand, he must choose between abandoning his friend and reuniting with his family. Written in verse, Laskin’s (Ronit & Jamil, 2017, etc.) book is a quick read that does not shy away from the cruel cost of war. The story is gut wrenching, and the small cast of characters is layered and endearing. Unfortunately, the text at times falls flat, lacking lyricism and a sense of interiority that could truly make the words shine. Furthermore, while the book generally addresses life in a conflict zone, it does not contain enough specific sensory details to create a deep sense of place. Explicit references to sexual violence may be triggering for some.
A tool for discussing the challenges of childhood in a conflict zone. (Verse novel. 16-adult)