"Friendship, resilience and hope can overcome injustice and prejudice"
October 2023 Book of the Month
Fans of the unforgettable Boy Everywhere will be keen to revisit the world of Sami, the refugee from Syria, whose horrific journey before finding a safe home in England and some good friends in Mark and Ali, had us all so gripped.
Ali becomes the narrator for this sequel, which again puts our society in the spotlight. At first the friends appear to be living the dream. Mark’s single parent Mum won the lottery, and they now live in an amazing house with a pool which the boys are looking forward to using all summer. Sami’s family have taken in Aadam, an unaccompanied minor seeking asylum, and Mark’s Mum is employing him as a gardener, just one of the many jobs he has taken on to earn some cash.
When he can, he joins the lads playing football, but unlike them he cannot attend school and be on the school team. It all starts to go horribly wrong when Aadam is threatened with deportation and his appeal is turned down, and then he is accused of theft by Mark’s Mum’s new boyfriend. Sami and Ali are literally kicked out and Mark is forbidden any contact with them. To add to Ali’s stress, his missing father has moved back to the area complete with his new family, which awakens all of Ali’s abandonment issues and self-doubt.
What follows is a beautifully nuanced and entirely credible story which exposes the casual racism that Ali, Sami and Aadam face every day and the cruel injustices of the asylum process. It empathetically explores family issues too. Mark and Ali had bonded over their lack of a father and are both fiercely supportive of their mothers. This means Mark is reluctant to interfere with her newfound happiness with the boyfriend Callum, despite his suspicions and dislike of Callum’s controlling behaviour. But once again the author shows us that it is humanity, compassion and hope that can win against all odds. The inspirational way in which the boys remain loyal to each other and are galvanised to take action to save Aadam can show young readers that they are not powerless and may well encourage them into their own social activism.
Any book which challenges the hateful rhetoric around refugees and asylum seekers is hugely important and for it to be so uplifting is a rare bonus. This book should be in every library and on every bookshelf, a thoroughly rewarding and powerful read.