A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
In the Author's Note, Katouh lets readers to know that while this is a work of fiction, the stories in the book (like the Karam El Zeitoun massacre) are based on real events.
Don't focus on the darkness and sadness. If you do, you won't see the light.
Positive Role Models
Salama's whole world has been shattered by the fighting that's overtaken her hometown of Homs. Instead of classroom work at university, she often finds herself in the operating room having to assume the role of a surgeon. Simply getting to and from work at the hospital requires enormous courage as anyone out on the streets risks being shot by a sniper. While Salama doesn't acknowledge she has PTSD, it's apparent to those around her. Despite all this, she remains compassionate and caring, always trying to think of others before herself. Kenan shows remarkable bravery as he continually puts his own life at risk to photograph and videotape the violence committed against civilians by government troops.
All the primary characters in the book are Muslim and presumed Syrian. Both Salama and Kenan defy often held stereotypes. Salama wears a hijab; it's her choice as a fiercely independent young woman. And iher independence and spirit attracts Kenan -- he's not looking for a girlfriend who's subservient.
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Violence & Scariness
Violence is a constant in this story. A character's mother is killed in front of her, and no one in Homs (not even children and pregnant women) is safe from snipers or shelling. At the hospital, she cares for a constant stream of wounded and dying civilians. Children arrive at the hospital with blood stained sneakers and bullet holes that have ripped through their throats. Salama describes blood spurting out of a wound as she digs around trying to find a piece of shrapnel in a little girl's stomach. Women and children in a nearby town are massacred by government soldiers and the city suffers a sarin gas attack. Salama writes movingly of sitting with a dying boy and reassuring him that he'll be able to talk to God when he gets to heaven.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
A few kisses.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Characters occasionally use "crap," "s--t,", "hell," and "damn."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
Kenan has a YouTube channel.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
An adult occasionally smokes cigarettes.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Zoulfa Katouh's As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow is set in Syria during the first years of the Syrian Revolution, which began in March, 2011. The story's told in the voice of 18-year-old pharmacy student Salama Kassab, who's working at a hospital filled with the gravely wounded and dying. She's desperate to find a way out of the country for herself and her pregnant sister-in-law, Layla, but Salama loves her country and is torn between between staying and the chance to save her life and and Layla's. When she meets the young man her parents had once hoped she'd marry, her decision becomes even more complicated. Strong language includes the occasional "crap," "s--t," "hell," and "damn." While violence in the novel is graphic and often bloody (a character's mother dies in a bombing, and the hospital treats children whose throats have been ripped open by bullets and pregnant women killed by snipers), it's never sensationalized or gratuitous.
Is It Any Good?
This is the story of war told not through the eyes of a soldier, but through the bravery and determination of a teenage girl forced to come of age too soon. Some readers may find the nonstop violence in As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow overwhelming, but it's that violence that offers teens a powerful lesson about the cost of war paid by the most vulnerable among us.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.