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YA Review: Hollow Fires by Samira Ahmed

Title: Hollow Fires
Author: Samira Ahmed
Year published: 2022
Category: YA fiction (mystery)
Pages: 416 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location: (my 2022 Google Reading map)USA (IL)

SummaryA powerful, gripping YA novel about the insidious nature of racism, the terrible costs of unearthing hidden truths, and the undeniable power of hope, by New York Times bestselling author Samira Ahmed. Perfect for fans of Sadie and Dear Martin.
Safiya Mirza dreams of becoming a journalist. And one thing she’s learned as editor of her school newspaper is that a journalist’s job is to find the facts and not let personal biases affect the story. But all that changes the day she finds the body of a murdered boy.

Jawad Ali was fourteen years old when he built a cosplay jetpack that a teacher mistook for a bomb. A jetpack that got him arrested, labeled a terrorist—and eventually killed. But he’s more than a dead body, and more than “Bomb Boy.” He was a person with a life worth remembering.

Driven by Jawad’s haunting voice guiding her throughout her investigation, Safiya seeks to tell the whole truth about the murdered boy and those who killed him because of their hate-based beliefs.
This gripping and powerful book uses an innovative format and lyrical prose to expose the evil that exists in front of us, and the silent complicity of the privileged who create alternative facts to bend the truth to their liking.

Review: I read this book in just one day it was so good. I've now read two of her novels (my review of Internment) and think she is really good. It's probably a stretch to count it for the RIP XVII Challenge, but I feel there is a definitely a mystery and there is (social/political) horror so I'm counting it.

Ahmed does a wonderful job of creating characters that I care about. They are not extraordinary people, but they are so real. They experience the hate and negativity that seems to have taken over this country; that fear of the "other," rather than embracing what makes us interesting and great, permeates her stories. Through her characters we see the political rhetoric, the way national fear and hatred percolate down to the personal and how it affects people on both sides. 

The story itself is well constructed and I liked hearing from both Jawad as he seeks help and justice for his death, and Safiya as she navigates making her voice heard against the wishes of those around her. Both voices cry out for attention in different ways as do those of the perpetrators.

This book is intense, and in such a good way. I highly recommend it.

Challenges for which this counts:

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