by Aisha Saeed
Expected publication May 8, 2018
Nancy Paulsen Books
Review copy provided by publisher
Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal's Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she's busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when--as the eldest daughter--she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn't lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens--after an accidental run-in with the son of her village's corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family's servant to pay off her own family's debt.
Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal--especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal's growing awareness of the Khans' nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.
Amal's story will capture so many readers. Through a series of unfortunate events, and really bad luck, Amal ends up a house servant to pay off her family's debts to the cruel landlord. Suddenly Amal's dreams of continuing school and becoming a teacher are gone. She holds on to the hope that her family might be able to come up with the money to pay for her freedom. In the meantime, she serves the landlord's mother, tries to fit in with the long-time servants and finds some comfort in reading the books she sneaks from the landlord's library.
The cast of characters are interesting and well-developed and all play a part in this gripping story. Middle grade readers will not be able to put it down. I would recommend it for grades 4-8 most. It has also been chosen as the Global Read Aloud choice for middle grades for 2018. It has also earned several starred reviews.
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