A Story of Resilience, Moral integrity, Friendship, Adventure-- all behind today's headlines!
Reviewed in the United States on 18 August 2018
This is a fast, action-paced read for any middle-schooler, and also for adults who read YA fiction in order to keep up on the world that we all live in, young people and oldsters alike.
The book follows the real-life recent headlines of the 2015 refugee crisis that hit Europe, the November 13 Paris night club terrorist attack, the subsequent manhunt in Brussels for the perpetrators, and the later bombing of the Brussels airport. These events serve as backdrop as they affect the lives of ordinary residents of a normally quiet, upscale residential neighborhood in Brussels, including the two central characters-- an American 13 year-old boy and a 14 year-old Syrian refugee who has lost his entire family in the Syrian war and the subsequent escape to Europe. The American, Max, is filled with resentment for having been recently moved from his familiar and comfortable home in the US to a new culture with almost incomprehensible customs and is both immersed in a new school with instruction in a language he can't understand, and being intensely bullied by a gang of boys-- which he does understand! The Syrian boy finds himself stranded in a city he did not want to be in after having lost his last family member, his father, and giving his last money and cell phone to an unscrupulous smuggler.
The Syrian, Ahmed, escapes from the smuggler during an intense rain, and, finding an unlocked rear door in a nearby townhouse, takes refuge by hiding in an unused wine cellar.
The townhouse happens to be the one that Max has recently moved into.
What follows is an adventure story that would thrill any boy, and any girl as well, with efforts to outsmart adults, develop an understanding of the prejudices and blind spots of the well-meaning, and not-so well-meaning people around them as they deal with supporting each other in the midst of the real refugee crisis and the palpable fear of terror attacks that are occurring all around them. Ahmed is in real danger.
Several other classmates are eventually drawn into the story, and from the adults who surround them, the boys and their friends learn about the very real historical parallel that took place in the same residential block 73 years earlier. During WW II, a resident of their street courageously hid an orphan Jewish refugee from the Holocaust, only to be turned in by unnamed neighbors acting as Nazi collaborators. The plot of Nowhere Boy then cleverly re-creates some of the history of Albert Jonnart, the martyr who after his death gave his name to the very same street, and the boys and their friends work to save Ahmed from modern-day Belgians fearful of finding a probable young terrorist in their midst.
The book and its plot give a vivid, cinematic or contemporary television feel to the story as it unfolds. Through it all, the reader gains an understanding about our modern day fears about "the other," and how those fears were present in an earlier time in history. At the same time, the reader learns how young people can learn to grow, gain self-confidence, self-respect, and come to understand, appreciate and befriend the seeming strangers who, though they may not be just like us, long for the same values of family, love and finding a place in the world.
18 people found this helpful