This first novel tells a stirring story, which is gripping and engaging on several levels. From the terror of a narrow midnight escape from the Taliban, and the tragic loss of the youngest child, to the final resolution of the story, the action moves through so many ups and downs, some of which are world events, others more personal. Along the way, pertinent facts about Afghanistan and the immigrant experience are mixed in. Readers will be drawn in by it all, especially by the characters of Fadi, his family, and friends. They are very human, yet amazingly honorable and thoughtful people.
Readers of all ages will gain sensitive insight into the hardships immigrants experience in their daily lives, especially those seeking asylum from oppressive cultures. And, they will be reminded of how the 9/11 terrorist attacks made the lives of Muslim immigrants even harder. But middle-grade readers, in particular, will relate to Fadi as an 11-year-old trying to fit in. Not only has he come from a very different world, carrying a terrible secret and guilt, but he also has the usual anxieties and difficulties of any "new kid," and almost immediately he is the target of two school bullies. The hopeful message is that he finds solace and hope in his family and good friends as well as in his photography, and he makes honorable choices even in the most rugged situations. Though the characters, language, and even the plot are a bit stiff at times, that message alone makes this is a book everyone should read.