How rare it is to find a book that is fantastic on so many different levels. Characters, plot, educational level, and a good story are all present in Shooting Kabul, along with a huge range of emotions. The reader will have a hard time putting it down.
We start off in Afghanistan with 11-year-old Fadi and his family, attempting to escape the country and the Taliban for better life in America. Author N.H. Senzai tactfully weaves an explanation of the Taliban's rule into the story, leaving us (or at least me) more educated on the group's initial goal and how they rose to power. It's an age-appropriate description and it's placed into Fadi's story very well.
Fadi's family is successful in their escape, however, Fadi's youngest sister Mariam is accidentally lost and left behind...a weight that Fadi will carry on his shoulders for a very long time. The only way he is able to cope is through photography, leading him to join a photo club at school and finally making a friend out of Anh, his partner for a photo competition.
As Fadi preps for the contest, which he feels will eventually allow him to go search for his little sister, the ultimate devastation happens in America. On September 11, 2001 the terrorist attacks occur and every thing changes for Fadi. He is no longer just a boy going to school, he is now a target for those filled with hatred for the attacks. He's lost, confused, and afraid for his family and needs his photography more than ever.
Typically, when an author attempts to combine so many elements, as Senzai has (terrorism, family, photography, making friends), it can all become a bit muddled and nothing truly stands out. Totally not the case in this book. All the focus is on Fadi and his process of coming into himself and letting go of the guilt of losing Mariam, and the other pieces are beautifully written extras.
I absolutely loved how Fadi compared his journey to Claudia's, the main character in From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg (the only book he had been able to hide from the Taliban). It seemed such an odd comparison, but the book creeps into several scenes and you'll make the connection as Fadi does. I found that a wonderful little surprise and more than a bit clever of the author.
I was touched on so many levels by Fadi's story. We get to see what life was like for a child living under the Taliban's rule, after 9/11, and through the changes of moving to a new country, attempting to make friends, and dealing with a huge amount of guilt. I am amazed at the emotions reading this brought up and I can only hope that the same feelings resonate in the middle grader readers this book is aimed towards.
Overall rating: 5 out of 5
Paula Wiseman Books
Review copy provided by publisher
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