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Review: Shooting Kabul (Senzai)

Title: Shooting Kabul
Author: N.H. Senzai
Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 262
Rating: 5 out of 5
Challenges: PoC; Reading from my shelves; Awesome Authors
FTC Disclosure: I bought this book and am donating it to my school's library
Summary (from the inside flap): Fadi never imagined he'd start middle school in Fremont, California, thousands of miles from home in Kbul--and half a world away from his missing six-year-old sister, Mariam.

Adjusting to life in the United States isn't easy for Fadi's family, and as the events of September 11 unfold, the prospects of locating Mariam in war-torn Afghanistan seem slim. When a photography competition with a grand prize of a trip to India is announced, Fadi sees his chance to return to Afghanistan and find his sister. But can one photo really bring Mariam home?

Review: This book is based in part on the author's husband's own experience fleeing Soviet-controlled Afghanistan in 1979. I was so relieved to read that his real sibling was not left behind as Fadi's sister is in this book.

The author does a wonderful job of mixing Fadi's experience starting middle school, the experiences of Afghanis and other minorities in the wake of 9/11, the culture of Afghanistan, and the anguish of losing a child. That sounds like too much to take on in one YA novel, but it all fits together seemlessly in this wonderful book.

Fadi is a great character. He is twelve years old but has the responsibility and the burden of watching out for his little sister. In some books I feel like young children are given too much maturity, but Fadi seems very real, down to earth, and a 12-year-old who has had to go through too much. The supporting characters are also good; I liked that Fadi and his very extended family get along with one another. His older sister and parents are real and have wonderful interactions with him throughout the book.

I also liked the way the book moved fluidly between the family's current life in San Francisco and their past life in Kabul, including the escape. Their educated, but troubled lives dealing with the Taliban juxtaposed with the lower class life and bigotry experienced by Fadi at school in San Francisco is poignant. However, it certainly isn't all doom and gloom. I enjoyed the relationships Fadi formed with a girl in his class as well as his art teacher; they were both caring, interesting, and provided more insight into Fadi's personality.

Geography Connection:

I liked the contrast of the two cities, both on the ocean, both with beautiful buildings, yet so far apart in so many ways. I seem to be reading quite a few books about Afghanistan these days (starting with Stones into Schools last year). It is a part of the world that fascinates me (yes, yes, along with India, Uganda and the Middle East). Click to see my updated Google Map.


Athira said...

I was just talking about having to read your review, and here it is!

This is something I want to read for sure, so I'm going to add to my TBR. A missing sibling is such a harrowing thought, and yet in some countries, it is such an everyday happening. I can't imagine such terror! Wonderful review!

Helen's Book Blog said...

Aths--I am chasing you around my blog! This is a quick YA read, but parts of it made me quite emotional and it really held my attention!

Amanda said...

Wow, this sounds fantastic! I'm definitely adding it to my TBR!

Helen's Book Blog said...

Amanda--It was fantastic and I hope I can get my students to read it! By the way, love your "mii" avatar

MissA said...

I added this book to my list of books to read for your Middle East challenge and I hope to start reading it this weekend. I'm very curious (and somewhat apprehensive) to read about life in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

I think it's better to read a few books one after the other about the same country, it gives you a better feel for the country/culture.

Helen's Book Blog said...

Miss Attitude--no worries; there aren't any icky things about life under the Taliban since the family leaves soon after they take over

Anne@HeadFullofBooks said...

Fascinating and educational review!

I am bestowing on you a blogger award. Check it out over at My Head is Full of Books


Helen's Book Blog said...

Anne--Thank you so much for the award! I'll post about it today and link back to you. I am really enjoying following your blog as well.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Another fantastic review!

N.H. Senzai said...


Thanks so much for the nuanced, thoughtful review of Shooting Kabul!I'm so glad you enjoyed it In writing it I had hope to show a glimpse into a world that we hear about a lot in the news, but don't know much in relation to the people, or their lives.

NH Senzai

Helen's Book Blog said...

Sheila--Thank you!

NH--I think you did just that: showing life for immigrants in general and specifically for Muslims post 9/11. This book really makes it personal