This is a rare action story that sheds light on serious issues in current events like racism, Islamophobia, and terrorism.
Recommended grade level: 6-10
Pages: 228 (for ISBN 9780545695190)
Pace: moderate to fast
Summary: Kamran Smith has it all. He’s the star of the football team, dates the most popular girl at school, and can’t wait to go to West Point like his big brother, Darius. Although Kamran’s mother is from Iran, Kamran has always felt 100% American. Accepted. And then everything implodes.
Darius is accused of being a terrorist on national TV. Kamran refuses to believe it, but Darius has been filmed making threats against his country, hinting at an upcoming, deadly attack. Suddenly everyone in Kamran’s life turns against him and his family.
Kamran knows it’s up to him to clear his brother’s name. In a race against time, Kamran must piece together a series of clues and codes that will lead him to Darius–and the truth. But is it a truth Kamran is ready to face? (Source)
Who will like this book?: This book is a librarian’s dream. It’s action-y enough that it reads like pop lit, but chock full of current events and social justice issues, too. Questions about who to trust–your family, your country, yourself–add emotional depth. This one is good at hooking boys. Short chapters allow reluctant readers to take small bites.
Who won’t like this book?: It has wide appeal, but readers who don’t enjoy action might not be willing to wade through the fight scenes to find the big questions and character development.
Other comments: I brought this to a book tasting for struggling readers in grades 6-8, and it was one of the most popular choices out of 30 or so books. There’s a bit of violence, but it isn’t described in too much detail. This book should get readers thinking about prejudices based on nationality and religion.
Readalikes: There are a lot of other books that cover certain aspects of this story, but none I can think of that cover them all.The closest I can think of is Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perera (recommended for mature readers). Readers interested in Muslim teens can try Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah, It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas, Watched by Marina Tamar Budhos, Overboard by Elizabeth Fama, and the comic Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson. Those looking for military stories may enjoy Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers and Chris Lynch’s historical fiction. Action standbys like Horowitz ‘s Alex Rider series should appeal to those in it for the gunfights and explosions. Gratz’s Holocaust novel Prisoner B-3087 has proved popular, and he has a new World War II novel called Projekt 1065.