Publication date: June 7th 2012
Publisher: HarpeCollins Children's Books
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Baghdad 2003. Lina is living with her father, a university professor, and dreaming about becoming an architect. Her mother, a successful lawyer, has disappeared four years earlier, taken on her way home from work, never to be seen or heard from again. Rumors of war are getting louder by the minute, but Lina’s father refuses to leave Baghdad in case her mother returns. When the bombs begin to fall and foreign soldiers become a part of everyday life, one by one Lina’s dreams start crumbling around her, until she has nothing left but desperate hope tied to an impossible boy.
The beginning of Lina’s story was strongly reminiscent of Lena’s story in Between Shades of Gray, and not just because of their names. It felt almost like reading Between Shades of Gray: Iraqi edition, and I had fun comparing the two for a while, but I was glad when they diverged after the first few chapters. As much as I loved Between Shades of Gray, I like diversity even more.
Lina’s account was interrupted a few times by very short chapters that focused on her mother’s disappearance in 1999. Interrupting a first person narrative with occasional chapters in third person and from a different point of view is a narrative technique I don’t particularly care for, so I was both dazed and dismayed when Drewery abandoned Lina suddenly and in a very difficult moment to give us three pages about her mother being captured four years earlier. The first time was the hardest because it followed a very emotional scene and I had a hard time adjusting to the sudden change, but it was difficult even later, when I knew to expect it. I can think of a few better ways to tell the same story, and I wish one of them had been chosen instead.
I can’t shake the feeling that it was simply too early for this book. Perhaps I’m wrong, but it was clear that the author strived for impartiality, and with wars, that sort of thing requires a lot of time and emotional distance, if it is ever even possible. I understand the appeal, the need to go where no YA author has gone before, but I also understand that sometimes you just bite off more than you can chew. No matter how sensitive Drewery’s approach, and no matter how brave she might be for deciding to write this story in the first place, the fact remains that in trying to be impartial, she remained superficial.
There are, however, a few things I greatly admire. Drewery’s writing style is clear and concise, but with great emotional depth. The easiness with which I connected with Lina proves that Kerry Drewery is an excellent writer. I’m already excited about her next project.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher, HarperCollins Children’s Books, for review purposes.