I must confess I had never heard of this book until I started downloading almost every secondary reading list I could find (I am trying to create my own reading list for my daughter) and I then started searching online for book reviews to see which books might be interesting and also not too graphic. This one popped up and I read some interesting comments so it went onto my pre-reading list and then a few days later I spotted it at our local library so I quickly borrowed it and read it.
Now I must admit I was a bit nervous about this book, it is a story about a refugee from Ethiopia and Eritrea and that immediately made me worried that there might be some graphic scenes about torture, rape or murder. Thankfully there wasn’t but just so everyone is aware in this story there are scenes where the family are threatened and then the boy’s mother is murdered (hacked to death) and later his father is also murdered, but none of these are too graphic. What does stand out when you read this story is that although the characters are fictional the actual story rings true and as you read you nod your head and go – yeah, that is what would have happened. The events, the way they unfold, parents trying everything to protect their kids, adapting to a new country, to foster care then the court case it all reads as if it were a true story and you just know that this author researched his topic really carefully and understood what he was writing about.
Okay so the story centers around a young boy – Alem whose father is Ethiopian and his mother is Eritrean which means that when the countries are at war he is not safe in either country (because the Ethiopians consider him Eritrean and the Eritreans consider him an Ethiopian, so both sides want to kill him). This leads to the family getting threatened and eventually the father brings Alem to England on a holiday but the father then disappears leaving Alem as a refugee in England (this was his fathers plan). The story follows Alem as he struggles to fit in to life in England, and as he adapts to a foster family.
It is a moving story which is beautifully written. You start to understand the struggle of this young boy, he wants to be with his family, he misses them and worries about their safety, he also wants to study hard in England and is desperate to learn yet no where appears to be safe for him, even England has problems for him. I don’t want to give too much away but it is a story about people, not just Alem and his parents but you also get to see a foster family and how the foster sister struggles with the decisions her parents make, you get a glimpse of other families living in a shelter and even a glimpse of the people working to help Alem, their own struggle.
I am adding this book to my daughter’s recommended reading list and I am marking it as an important one to read because I think it covers a wide range of topics that we do need to expose our kids to and discuss with them and for us reading a story is often that starting point for those discussions.
I really do Highly Recommend this for older kids – I would say ages 12 and over