Thanks to NetGalley and Wendy Lamb Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Naeem is far from the “model teen.” Moving fast in his immigrant neighborhood in Queens is the only way he can outrun the eyes of his hardworking Bangledeshi parents and their gossipy neighbors. Even worse, they’re not the only ones watching. Cameras on poles. Mosques infiltrated. Everyone knows: Be careful what you say and who you say it to. Anyone might be a watcher.
Naeem thinks he can charm his way through anything, until his mistakes catch up with him and the cops offer a dark deal. Naeem sees a way to be a hero–a protector–like the guys in his brother’s comic books. Yet what is a hero? What is a traitor? And where does Naeem belong?
I’m a little torn as to my feelings about this book. Budhos successfully takes on Islamophobia and living under constant surveillance which are timely issues given what is happening in the world. I also found Naeem to be a sympathetic character, despite him being a troublemaker. He’s a senior in high school chafing under the expectations of his parents who want a better life for him, and resentful of the way society views him. Living under the constant watch of cops, cameras, and neighbors, his paranoia and bitterness are understandable. Because of this, his attention turns to petty crime, and when he’s caught shoplifting he finds himself in the unenviable position of working with the very people he distrusts the most and potentially betraying someone he knows. The plot however is extremely slow moving in part because Budhos tends to convey one thing, two to three different ways. From the synopsis I expected this to be full of suspense, but although Naeem is in a difficult situation, the action never really picked up. The story is filled with uncertainty which could frustrate some readers, although it’s a good lesson of how you can’t always be sure of other peoples’ intentions, even if you think you know them. The ending I felt was a little contrived which added to my feelings of frustration. So, this leads to my dilemma as to who I would recommend this to. Despite my issues with the author’s writing style, I do think she does a good job at capturing what it’s like to live as a Muslim where so many people view you suspiciously. I also really liked Naeem and I think many teens could relate to him. I think this would be a decent choice for classroom discussion or a book group because of all the timely issues raised. While I didn’t love this book, I did find many parts of it interesting and I’ll definitely be looking out for future books by this author.