Published: May 8 2018
Format: Paperback (ARC copy)
Tags: Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, PoC, Contemporary, Pakistan
| Synopsis From the Publisher |
Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when–as the eldest daughter–she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens–after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.
Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal–especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.
| Book Review |
– Content –
What I Liked
Amal is probably one of my favorite characters I’ve gotten to know this year. She’s spunky, she’s kind, and most of all, she believes in herself and her dreams. I loved seeing her grown throughout the book. The strength she possesses as she handles going from a free young girl who goes to school to a servant in a scary, rich extortionist’s house is remarkable. I also really loved getting to know the rest of the servants in the house and seeing Amal make connections with them. It was really sweet.
This book is set in a rural village in Pakistan. I can safely say that I’ve not any books set in Pakistan before, nor do I know much about Pakistan the country. I really enjoyed getting to read a book that’s set somewhere I’m unfamiliar with. It’s different, it’s more diverse for me than what I usually read, and I got to learn more about another culture. This book is also a #ownvoices book, so it was nice getting to read about Pakistan from an author who can bring knowledge of the culture to life in her writing.
What I Didn’t Like
Nothing! I really don’t have anything negative to say about the book!
– Literary Value-
This book is a great addition to middle grade literature. Not only was this book easy to read, it was also really accessible. Though I don’t know much about Pakistan, I was easily drawn into the story and got my bearings right away. I learned a lot just from being taken through the story.
Even the difficult subject matter, like Amal being forced into servitude because of her family’s debt to the Kahn family, is handled very well. The story is bittersweet, but Saeed handles things with a lightness that gives the reader hope and at the same time, helps the reader understand the seriousness facing Amal.
For realistic fiction, this book really pulls you in and takes you on a journey. By the end, I felt like I had learned a lot, not just about Amal, but about what a portion of life is like in Pakistan. I like that Saeed takes you to a hopeful ending, though takes time in an Author’s note to mention that things often don’t work out like they do for Amal. This book has a powerful message for readers, but it never feels like you’re being hit over the head with it.
– Entertainment Factor –
Thought the subject matter is heavy, I really enjoyed reading this book. It was well written and the story moved along at a nice pace. There were no slow bumps to get over. Instead, I turned the pages eagerly because I wanted to find out what might what happen to Amal next.
I also really enjoyed reading about life in Pakistan. The everyday life in Amal’s village and her time spent as a servant in the Kahn home were fascinating to read about. The story and its setting really flowed so easily.
– Cover Art –
I love this cover. It has some of my favorite elements used in book covers: bright colors, flowers, and illustration (with not a human face in sight! Also, this book makes it clear that it focuses on people of color.
This cover is very eye-catching. It’s one of the main things that drew me to this book in the first place. I also like how it depicts the bittersweet nature of the story – bright, happy images, but also thorny vines twining around the wrists. I like the addition of henna as well, since it is a part of the story. Basically, I think this cover does a great job of clueing you in to what the story contains.
| My Rating |
Definitely Worth the Read
Saeed does an excellent job here of creating a story that is easy to read, handles heavy topics delicately, and gives the reader a glimpse of Pakistan from the eyes of a young girl. It’s a bittersweet story, but it’s also full of hope. I really enjoyed getting to know Amal and her family, watching her struggle and overcome the difficulties in her life. It’s really a story of bravery and courage in the face of adversity. In many ways, Amal represents my favorite iteration of the “strong female main character.” She isn’t super strong, she doesn’t fight, she is just a courageous young woman who stands up for those she loves, even in the face of danger to herself. She’s a great main character.
Would I recommend this book?
Definitely! This is a diverse, empowering story about a young girl who faces difficulties with a brave face. This middle-grade realistic fiction story is written well and offers a glimpse of life in Pakistan. I will recommending this book to any young readers who like realistic fiction and want something a little different than the traditional topics found in this subject. I would also recommend this book to anyone who looks up to Malala Yousafzai, who was in-part an inspiration for Amal.