Boy, Everywhere by A. M. Dassu
This debut middle-grade novel chronicles the harrowing journey taken by Sami and his family from privilege to poverty, across countries and continents, from a comfortable life in Damascus, via a smuggler's den in Turkey, to a prison in Manchester. A story of survival, of family, of bravery ... In a world where we are told to see refugees as the 'other', this story will remind readers that 'they' are also 'us'.
Boy, Everywhere tells the story of Sami, a thirteen year old boy from Damascus in Syria. As the story starts he appears to be like any other 13 year old boy. Sure he lives in a country that is at war, but that war has so far not touched his life or his city. It is in other parts of the country, on the news. He has the same sort of contact with the war as anyone else watching something effect other people, elsewhere. That is until the day there is a bombing in the mall; the mall his mother and younger sister are at, getting him new football boots.
Sami's life takes a bewildering turn from that moment and he goes through an emotional rollercoaster of worrying about his family to finding himself being uprooted from everything he knows and loves to move away from his home. The journey Sami goes on to get to England, where his father knows people that can take them in, is harrowing and tense. It is all the more so because Sami is dealing with feelings of guilt over the trauma his sister and mother have suffered and confusion and homesickness. Sami just wants life to return to normal. He wants to play on his PlayStation and attend football trials like he would have been (in his opinion) if he had stayed in Damascus.
Along the way Sami meets Aadam, another Syrian refugee and gets a window into the hardship that many in his country have faced since the war began. He begins to see how privileged his upbringing has been, which makes it all the harder for him to accept his new reality of having nothing and living in fear and danger.
The journey Sami faces is many thousands of miles but it is also a journey of discovery for him, where he learns about himself and his family. It is a journey where he learns about what is important and he learns to grow up and stop looking inwardly all of the time. The way the 13 year old boy is portrayed is skilful writing and really shows the angst that someone his age might go through if they were uprooted, unwillingly from their home and everything they know.
As you can probably tell from I have written already, I loved this book. I think this is one of the most important books I have read this year; it has had quite an impact on me. The motivation behind the book, to show refugees as ordinary people 'like us' is done extremely effectively.
This book needs to be in every school. The message that refugees are people like us who don't want to leave their homes and everything they know sometimes gets lost on the news coverage. All we tend to see is either victims to feel sympathy for or people looking for something from us. When the reality is most refugees would happily return to the lives they know if their country was safe. The refugee crisis and it's coverage by the media has desensitised us to the fact that these are real people with real lives that have been uprooted.
I think this is a great story for encouraging empathy and understanding of refugees. I was hugely invested in Sami's journey throughout the book and i think many other readers would be too. This is a great book for year 5 and above.
If you like the sound of this book, I urge you to buy it (and feel free to press the like button on this post as well!). There is a link below for where you can buy it. Please also consider supporting independent bookshops by buying from one of them (authors also generally get more money from sales at independent bookshops than they do at the large online shops like amazon, where they get as little as 12p per book).