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Review: A Hope More Powerful than the Sea by Melissa Fleming

Title: A Hope More Powerful than the Sea: One Refugee's Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival
Author: Melissa Fleming
Year Published: 2017

Genre: Adult non-fiction
Pages: 260 (plus notes from the author and subject)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Greece, Sweden

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Adrift in a frigid sea, no land in sight, just debris from the ship's wreckage and floating corpses all around, nineteen-year-old Doaa Al Zamel stays afloat on a small inflatable ring and clutches two little girls--barely toddlers--to her body. The children had been thrust into Doaa's arms by their drowning relatives, all refugees who boarded a dangerously overcrowded ship bound for Italy and a new life. For days as Doaa drifts, she prays for rescue and sings to the babies in her arms. She must stay alive for the. She must not lose hope.

A Hope More Powerful than the Sea chronicles the life of Doaa, a Syrian girl whose life was upended in 2011 by the onset of her country's brutal civil war. Doaa and her fiancé, Bassem, decide to flee to Europe to seek safety and an education, but four days after setting sail on a smuggler's dilapidated fishing vessel along with five hundred other refugees, their boat is struck and begins to sink. This is the moment when Doaa's struggle for survival really begins.

Review: This book is the final book to complete the ALA Youth Media Awards books since it is an Alex Award winner (adult book that will appeal to youth). And I've got to say that this is the only Alex Award winner that appealed to me this year, which is unusual. 

I have read two other similar books this year: Tears of Salt is a non-fiction account by an doctor who receives refugees and Don't Tell Me You're Afraid told the story of a Somali girl who fled to Italy via a smuggler's boat. I was interested to see how this book overlapped and compared to those two.

It's difficult to write this review with tears streaming down my cheeks, but I'll do my best. Doaa's story is intense, emotional, terrifying, and hopeful. I love that the reader gets to know her family while they live in Syria and life is good because it makes it more meaningful as the war in Syria begins and escalates. We feel invested as they escape the horrors of Bashar al-Assad's regime and make their way through Jordan to Egypt to make a new life. And, as Doaa and Bassem decide to take the risk of smuggling themselves to Italy on a refugee ship, it makes sense, and we can see that it really is their only choice.

This book combines human interest, history and recent events, love and hate (really, how can humans be so cruel to one another?!), devastation and hope into a compelling story that is important to read.

Challenges for which this counts: 

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