Young readers (8 or 9 and up); adults who want to know what their nieces and nephews are reading.
In a nutshell:
Amal, a young girl living in Pakistan, talks back to the wrong man and is forced to go work in his home as a maid to his mother.
“Until now, I didn’t realize how memories clumped together. Remembering one unlocked another and then another until you were drowning in a tidal wave threatening to sweep you away.”
Why I chose it:
My niece gave it to me as part of her family’s Christmas gift (she and her mother each picked a book they’d read this year that they loved).
Obviously I’m not the target audience for this book, but I definitely found it engaging. Amal is such an interesting character, one who I think many girls could identify with even if they wouldn’t find themselves in her particular circumstances. She loves school and wants to learn. She’s a big sister, and helps with her family. She also craves independence.
I appreciate how some of this book focuses on Amal’s lack of control and agency in her situation, but then finds ways for her to take back that control and agency. It also shows adults as complex people – there is obviously a villain, but there are other adults who are trying to help, and adults who actually DO help. Author Saeed writes parents who desperately care for their children but aren’t able to do anything to change Amal’s circumstances in that moment, showing the reader that just because a parent isn’t able to fix something doesn’t mean they don’t care or that they aren’t trying.
Amal also shows a lot of courage in the face of really challenging situations, serving as an example to kids that even if it might be easier to remain quiet, it is important to speak up and possibly help others. And that we are often faced with choices we don’t like, and sometimes we just must pick the best one in that moment, and sometimes we have to find an option that wasn’t originally there.
When researching for this review, I learned that Saeed is one of the founders of We Need Diverse Books (https://diversebooks.org/), so that’s awesome too.
Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Donate it – I want other young readers to have access to it.