Rebel of Fire and Flight

Scholastic/Chicken House. Jan. 2023. 384p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781338802313.
Gr 8 Up–Khadija has spent her life locked inside, daydreaming about hot air balloons that drift by and fighting her father’s insistence of an arranged marriage. When the latest suitor prompts Khadija to escape in a rogue balloon, she is finally free. That is, until she crashes into an unknown village and meets Jacob, a member of the heavily oppressed Hari. Generations before, the Hari attempted to colonize the Ghadean people and failed, leaving only their descendants behind. When his village burns and his people are slaughtered, Jacob has no choice but to depend on Khadija, a Ghadaean, to escape. The two are forced to choose sides on the building rebellion, leading Khadija to reckon with her inner prejudices and Jacob to question how far is too far in the name of justice. While the storyline and pacing is a bit rushed, the character examinations shine. It realistically portrays the difficulties of fighting racism and misogyny without feeding into the very hate that creates it. Khadija is a strong female lead with her own deep-rooted reason for hating the Hari, while Jacob’s decisions are deeply relatable and sympathetic. Violence, grief, and dark magic are countered with descriptive worldbuilding, romance, and dashes of quippy dialogue.
VERDICT An incredible examination of extremism and the agonizing fight for societal change.

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