An Israeli settlement in the occupied territories forms the thinly disguised setting of a tale inappropriately introduced with an epigraph from the Gospels.
Thirteen-year-old Joshua lives in Amarias with his mother and despised stepfather, Liev. He hates Amarias, where his once-joyful mother covers her hair and defers to Liev, but he doesn’t much think about The Wall, the checkpoints and the soldiers he’s told protect him from “the people who live on the other side.” Joshua finds a tunnel that takes him under The Wall, where he’s rescued by a girl. Joshua’s new social consciousness—worry for the girl and wondering how his observations correspond to what he’s been told—is tangled up in his consistently degrading relationship with Liev. Every time Joshua breaks his frustrated passivity in order to help the girl and her family, he worsens the situation for them. Despite the novel’s subtitle, this is wholly realistic fiction detailing a boy’s coming-of-age in a real-life political situation. Unfortunately, in the absence of proper nouns or other clues (Israelis and Palestinians distinguished by “my language” and “harsh, guttural words I can’t understand”; “people like me” and “everyone else”; “us” and “the people who used to live there”), the tale lacks context; without knowledge of the setting, it reads like a dystopian novel inexplicably featuring “American TV” and a “Japanese sedan.”
The book might be effective in a classroom setting; it’s likely to be confusing unmediated. (Fiction. 11-13)