A Revolutionary Tale

Zafir (Through My Eyes, #6)Zafir by Prue Mason
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Zafir is living in Homs(Syria) with his parents after moving from Dubai. When he sees a body thrown from a car in the street his life changes forever. No-one stops to help and when Zafir assists his father, a doctor, in getting treatment for the injured man, a protester, an unstoppable chain of events begins.
Zafir starts to realise there is a lot he does not understand about Syria. Why does his best friend, Rami, move away with this family? Why does he write email messages to Zafir in code? How come Eleni, his new friend moves away too?
As a revolution begins in Syria, Zafir comes to realise his father, who has been arrested for aiding the injured protester in the hospital, and other members of his family are in terrible danger. His favourite uncle, Ghazi, is taking photos of what is taking place and his friend, Azzam Azzad is writing for a blog to let the world know the suffering of the Syrian people.
This is a compelling tale of revolution and the “little people” whose lives are turned upside down when it is in full flight. Zafir is quite wide-eyed and innocent at the beginning of the book, but by the end he is more worldly than he has ever been before. Even in the face of a seemingly hopeless situation, Zafir never loses hope – a testament to the reslience of children everywhere. He adapts to the situation around him and is a resourceful child. Zafir is also part of a family that straddles Christian and Muslim beliefs – a really interesting device that shows the differences, but also the similaries between the two doctrines, which is a masterstroke by Prue Mason. Because the events are seen through Zafir’s eyes, the complex situation in Syria is confusing and never “black and white”. This is what makes the stories in this series so believable and poignant and it is a credit to series creator and editor, Lyn White, that this authentic feel has been sustained through all six books in the current series

A gripping story from a child’s point of view, set during a turbulent time from the recent history of a fascintating country.
Recommended for ages 12 and up.

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Two Worlds in One

AfterworldsAfterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Scott Westerfeld has taken two genres and meshed them together to create a novel that, whilst requiring concentration, is still great fun to read.
There are parallel stories going on here.

Story 1: Darcy Patel has written her very first novel, Afterworlds – a supernatural romance/suspense story. She is eighteen and bashed the book out in a month. Now, she has a two-book deal, and a massive advance to finance her first move away from home – to New York City – to work on the rewrites and start fleshing out “Untitled Patel 2”.

Story 2: Lizzie is the survivor of a terrorist attack at an airport. She survives this attack by playing dead, and unexpectedly finds herself thrust into the Underworld – the land of the dead. There she meets the strange and alluring Yamaraj – and romance is born.

This idea is very cleverly pulled off by Westerfeld. He gives us enough of each story in the alternating chapters to want to read on. I thought I would find this format tedious and I struggled intially to engage with the characters (and I still don’t think I fully engaged with them), but there was enough to keep me interested all the way through to the end.

Darcy’s story gives fascinating insight into the world of YA publishing and the personalities and processes that personify it. Lizzie’s story, to me, felt the more forced of the two and I did not find myself as immersed in her world and story as I did in Darcy’s.

Still, Scott Westerfeld writes well – it is clear he loves his characters and we are taken along for a very entertaining ride.

Recommended for ages 14 and up, due to some of the content and concepts.