S. & S./Atheneum. Sept. 2020. 256p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781534452329.
Gr 7 Up–Hadi, a 13-year-old Syrian refugee, lives in Beirut and sells gum on a busy street corner in order to help feed his family of nine and pay rent for their squalid one-room apartment. When a new boy, Malek, starts to sell tissues on the same corner, Hadi worries the space is not big enough for them both to profit. Not wanting to provoke Malek’s employer—the leader of a dangerous gang who controls the street-selling—Hadi moves his location across the street. The move proves unfortunate, as Hadi, unwittingly at first, agrees to deliver drugs for an even more dangerous criminal who hovers on the new corner. Hadi’s short-term solution to make quick money to help his family has long-term consequences, as they are forced to flee Beirut to evade the drug dealers. Their escape is harrowing, but through the kindness of others and their own resilience, Hadi and his family eventually find a path to a better life. Hughes writes with clarity and compassion about Hadi’s experiences and the suffering of displaced persons, particularly the children who sell wares on the streets and are subject to degradation and danger. His descriptions of the refugees’ fight for survival in Beirut are empathetic without being heavy-handed. An author’s note describes the time Hughes and his wife spent in Beirut teaching English to refugees as part of a humanitarian effort.
VERDICT Recommended, especially for young adults looking for a realistic look into the daily fight for survival faced by many refugees.

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