Watched

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
Watched Book Poster Image
Compelling tale of Muslim teen's dilemma informing for cops.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Naeem and his family live in a gritty immigrant neighborhood filled with families from Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Guyana, and Watched brings it vividly to life. Readers will meet a wide variety of characters who are Muslim -- shopkeepers, college students,  community volunteers, human rights activists -- and learn what it's like to attend prayers at a mosque and fast during Ramadan.

Positive Messages

Your present doesn't have to be your future.

 

Positive Role Models & Representations

While Naeem makes lots of bad choices when it comes to school and friends, he's also an example of someone who knows he's on a wrong road and makes the decision to do the work needed to turn his life around.

Violence
Sex
Language
Consumerism

Passing references to movies and TV shows (The Matrix, The Good Wife, Law & Order), YouTube, and Spider-Man comics. Ralph Lauren shirts figure in a major plot line.

 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One character smokes marijuana. Naeem passes kids on the street smoking cigarettes and drinking beer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Marina Budhos' Watched is the story of a teen immigrant from Bangladesh who becomes an informant for the New York City Police Department. Naeem is a senior in high school with failing grades and facing an uncertain future. Arrested for shoplifting, he's offered a deal by the NYPD: Watch what's going on in local mosques, on radical websites, and among his Muslim friends and neighbors, and the arrest will go away. When he becomes involved in a plan to entrap one of those friends, he's confronted with what will be a life-changing moral decision. This is a relatable coming-of-age story set amid controversial issues surrounding the profiling and surveillance of the Muslim community. Watched was named a 2017 Walter Dean Myers Award Honor Book, a 2016-2017 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature Honor Book, and a 2017 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults.

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What's the story?

WATCHED is the story of Naeem, who came to the Unites States from Bangladesh when he was 11 and lives with his family in New York City. The family owns a small store, which is struggling financially despite the long hours his parents put in. Now a senior in high school, his life is unraveling and he knows it. Once a studious "good" kid, Naeem has neglected his schoolwork to the point where he won't graduate with his class and is hanging out with a friend, Ibrahim, he knows is a bad influence. When Ibrahim plants some designer shirts in his backpack, Naeem is arrested for shoplifting. At the police station, NYPD detectives make him an offer. Work for them "watching" the Muslim community, and he won't be arrested. To sweeten the deal, they tell him he'll be a paid informant, able to bring home money his family desperately needs. So Naeem, who's always resented being watched by his parents and other adults in the neighborhood, becomes the watcher. Unexpectedly, this new role begins to give his life much needed direction. He enrolls in summer school and works hard. His family and neighbors comment on the positive changes they see in him. But when he's asked to help set up a friend for arrest, making the right choice may mean losing all he's gained.

Is it any good?

Based on real events and issues, this tension-filled coming-of-age novel tackles a big topic: the ethics surrounding the surveillance of Muslim Americans. For readers less interested in politics than characters, Watched offers a storyline that's relatable across cultural and religious boundaries of a teen who's made some bad choices and is trying to put his life back on the right track.

 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what they learned about profiling and surveillance while reading Watched. Do you agree or disagree that some groups in the United States need to be under surveillance? Why?

  • In a world filled with smartphones always taking photos and videos, can anyone really avoid being watched?

  • Naeem feels that the adults in his world are always watching what he does, be it good or bad. When is it a good thing to have adults watching out for you, and when should they step back and let you make your own choices?

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