Finalist for the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award
Orphaned and plagued with the grief of losing everyone he loves, fifteen-year-old Abdul has made a long, fraught journey from his war-torn home in Baghdad, only to end up in The Jungle -- the squalid, makeshift migrant community in Calais.
When an altercation at the soup kitchen ends up with him accidently stabbing a policeman, Abdul has to flee, and in desperation he takes a spot in a small boat heading to England. A sudden skirmish leaves the boat stalled in the middle of the Channel, the pilot dead, and four young people remaining -- Abdul; Rosalia, a Romani girl who has escaped from the white slave trade; Cheslav, gone AWOL from a Russian military school; and Jonah, the boat pilot's ten-year-old nephew.
The four of them end up hijacking a yacht and, despite their fear and mistrust, they form a kind of makeshift family. And as the authorities close in on them, they find refuge in an unusual place -- a child's secret cave on the English coast.
Ellis (the Breadwinner Trilogy) throws readers into the harrowing experience of migrant teens escaping from different horrors in various corners of the world. Fifteen-year-old Abdul leaves war-torn Baghdad after his family is brutally murdered, winding up in a shantytown in Calais, France, four months later with the aim of reaching England and beginning a new life. His only chance is to take a despicable smuggler's boat and become indebted to him. At sea, he meets Rosalia, a Romani girl who ran from a brothel in Germany, and Cheslav, a passionate trumpet player dodging the Siberian military. The trio is forced to work together to survive the treacherous waters and to keep the smuggler's ill nephew alive, but their haunted pasts have hardened them, preventing easy friendships. "There always seemed to be one more thing. Solve one problem, and another one cropped up," Abdul reflects. Flashbacks involving the effects of war and poverty on communities and families drive this fast-paced and heart-wrenching narrative, which deals honestly with countless harsh realities. Ages 14 up.