Nowhere Boy

368p. Roaring Brook. Aug. 2018. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250307576.
OrangeReviewStarGr 5–8—Fourteen-year-old Ahmed flees war-torn Syria with his father after a bomb kills the rest of their family. His father jumps from the leaky raft he and other escaping refugees are on to prevent it from sinking in the middle of the Mediterranean. A rogue wave sweeps him away and Ahmed's loss mounts. A fellow refugee takes him in and they eventually join a refugee tent camp in Brussels. But anti-Muslim sentiment is running high in Belgium. When the tent city is shut down, Ahmed, terrified of being returned, runs away and takes shelter in the sub-basement of a home. The home is newly occupied by an American family. Max, the 13-year-old son, is furious with his parents for uprooting him from his friends and forcing him to learn a new language. He becomes intrigued with the history of the house when he learns that a Jewish child was hidden in the basement during World War II. When Max discovers Ahmed and learns his story, the two form a fledgling friendship. Max is not only determined to keep Ahmed hidden, but determined to get him into school. Marsh skillfully weaves the historical parallels with a touching story of friendship. She ratchets up the tension and suspense, until it becomes unbearable; readers will fly through the last hundred pages.
VERDICT Thoughtfully touching on immigration, Islamophobia, and terrorism, this novel is a first-purchase. Hands to fans of Alan Gratz's Refugee.

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