“Filled with kindness and hope…Heartbreaking…Necessary.” —Booklist (starred review)
Nadia’s family is forced to flee their home in Aleppo, Syria, when the Arab Spring sparks a civil war in this timely, “harrowing” (Publishers Weekly) coming-of-age novel from award-winning author N.H. Senzai.
Silver and gold balloons. A birthday cake covered in pink roses. A new dress.
Nadia stands at the center of attention in her parents’ elegant dining room. This is the best day of my life, she thinks. Everyone is about to sing “Happy Birthday,” when her uncle calls from the living room, “Baba, brothers, you need to see this.” Reluctantly, she follows her family into the other room. On TV, a reporter stands near an overturned vegetable cart on a dusty street. Beside it is a mound of smoldering ashes. The reporter explains that a vegetable vendor in the city of Tunis burned himself alive, protesting corrupt government officials who have been harassing his business. Nadia frowns.
It is December 17, 2010: Nadia’s twelfth birthday and the beginning of the Arab Spring. Soon anti-government protests erupt across the Middle East and, one by one, countries are thrown into turmoil. As civil war flares in Syria and bombs fall across Nadia’s home city of Aleppo, her family decides to flee to safety. Inspired by current events, this novel sheds light on the complicated situation in Syria that has led to an international refugee crisis, and tells the story of one girl’s journey to safety.
Senzai (Ticket to India) crafts a harrowing novel about a 14-year-old girl's flight from war-torn Syria in 2013 that captures the reality of the conflict while illuminating the culture and history of the country. After an explosion buries Nadia under rubble, her family is forced to flee without her. When Nadia tries to trace their steps, she meets an enigmatic elderly bookbinder, Ammo Mazen, who promises to take her to the meeting place. Senzai effectively sketches the ever-changing dangers and varied combatants, including a band of rebel women, as Nadia and Ammo take on two orphans and wend their way through the city, trying to reach the Turkish border. Flashbacks illustrate the charms of Nadia's family and their life before the fighting, including birthday celebrations and the promise of Arab Spring. Though some of the plot machinations are a tad convoluted, the novel's taut pacing and memorable heroine result in a gripping and intense story of the traumas inflicted on Syria's citizens. Ages 8 12.