Seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her family live in fear after reporting that they were Muslim on a Census record. Because of that they find themselves on a registry that sends them and others to an internment camp. There are some, like her boyfriend David, that fight for her, but it's Layla that finds she must take a stand and resist. Even when resisting might lead to horrible consequences.
What worked: This is listed as a dystopian novel, but I disagree. We're living this right now with undocumented migrants being sent to internment camps in the United States. Reading Ahmed's novel felt like watching the news.
There's so much within this novel that speaks out against staying silent while neighbors are targeted around them. How a leader of a nation first dehumanizes a group of people by calling them 'animals', 'rapists' and 'criminals'. Even worse when he labels them 'illegal aliens'.
Layla is a strong, heroic protagonist. What I love about this novel, even though it shows the ugliness of racism and nationalism masked as "patriotism", it also shows the power of standing up and fighting back. It shows how it is courageous to take a stand. Yes, it is frightening too. Layla and her friends within the camp witness this first hand.
Layla's parents are sympathetic and try to protect her from what is going on around them. David, Layla's boyfriend, tries to help her out by publishing reports that she has smuggled out. He even records an incident that goes viral.
What is equally frightening is how fast freedoms one takes for granted can be stripped away. But this has happened in the past. Japanese Americans in 1941. Mexican Reparation Act of the 1930s. Trail of Tears. Readers see through Layla's eyes the horror of being stripped of everything and labeled a 'enemy of the state'. Equally haunting is the UV ID numbers that are placed on everyone's wrist. Even though no one else can see the numbers, they are there.
Readers see what happens within the internment camp. How people are segregated by color and region. But there's also those inside that try to help out and get word of what is going on to those outside of the camp.
Very powerful images throughout with a strong protagonist that refuses to stay silent while being targeted based on her religion. Gripping and a must-read. I also strongly feel it should be in every high school library. This book would be great for High School Civics class discussions. Mostly though it reminds readers that those who forget history, repeat it.