We Didn't Ask for This
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that We Didn't Ask for This is YA novelist Adi Alsaid's lively take on edgy, impassioned activism, crushes, charisma, and determination, set in an international school for privileged kids located in an unnamed tropical country. Alsaid spins an engaging ensemble cast of ethnically and sexually diverse teens grappling with assorted coming-of-age issues at a much-anticipated annual lock-in night at the school. The event quickly becomes something else entirely when five of the teens, determined to stop the destruction of coral reefs, chain themselves to the doors and lock everyone up for real as they issue demands. There's not much diversity of viewpoint: The notion that this is anything other than heroic behavior on their part is only expressed by cartoonishy jerky characters, even as the hostage situation continues over a week. Meanwhile, everyone else -- students, teachers, school staff -- all either fall under leader Marisa's charismatic spell or find a way to make the best of the situation with booze, newfound romance, and other diversions. Several characters sustain serious injuries, including one that requires a steady series of painkillers from the (also imprisoned) school nurse. Frequent strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," and "piss," and there's a recurring theme of the protesters peeing and pooping in buckets. Two teen same-sex couples bond and fall in love, though more kisses are dreamed of than actually occur.
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What's the Story?
WE DIDN'T ASK FOR THIS finds the high school students of Central International School in a state of frenzied anticipation as the revered tradition of annual lockdown night commences. Located in an unnamed tropical country and serving the children of diplomats, expats, and other rich and powerful types from around the world, the school spares no expense on sports, clubs, and activities, so there's plenty of fun in store for all. Celeste Rollins, the new girl and the child of Black parents who've left the troubled U.S. for a new country, just hopes this is the night she finally finds some people to click with and be friends. Peejay Singh, social god, has more grandiose plans--he's spent the whole year planning the epic, alcohol-fueled, and definitely clandestine party that goes on every year under the teachers' noses. Unbeknownst to either of them, Marisa Cuevas, smart, passionate, organized, and blessed with supportive parents, is determined to save coral reefs--and has put even more planning than Peejay into her own plans to keep everybody locked in the school till her demands are met.
Is It Any Good?
Captivity, conflict, charisma, creativity, and coral reefs make for unexpected events and intense bonding in Adi Alsaid's tale of lockdown, protest, and partying at an elite international school. We Didn't Ask for This presents an engaging ensemble cast of smart, cosmopolitan teens dealing with relatable issues (e.g. coming out, dealing with traditional parents when you aren't traditional, crushes, social pressures, fitting in...), suddenly confronted with new challenges as eco-zealous classmates take them prisoner in a protest. The narrative skews heavily to by-any-means-necessary cheerleading for the protesters and their cause, which may provoke thought and generate discussion about ethics and tactics.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the destruction of coral reefs, which inspired the protest in We Didn't Ask for This. What do you know about that situation? What's causing the destruction? Is anything helping to stop or reverse the damage?
Do you think holding people against their will to get something you want is OK if you're doing it for a cause and not just, say, a lot of money? Why do you see it that way?
What issue do you care enough about to try to change minds at your school?
- Author: Adi Alsaid
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Activism, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Inkyard Press
- Publication date: April 7, 2020
- Number of pages: 352
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: August 2, 2021
Our Editors Recommend
Our House Is on Fire: Greta Thunberg's Call to Save the Planet
Alarming story of teen's strike for climate change action.
My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea
Edgy high school disaster comedy is memorably offbeat.
For kids who love high school stories and activism tales
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