Tagging Freedom

Union Square & Co. Nov. 2023. 288p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781454950714.
Gr 4-7–In a book written in alternating voices, the two characters—Kareem, who lives in Damascus, Syria, and Samira (Sam), who lives in Allansdale, MA—are cousins with more in common than they realize. Kareem and his closest friends have been spray-painting graffiti speaking out against how the corrupt Syrian government is treating its people. They know they must graffiti quickly and quietly to avoid being caught and becoming one of the “disappeared” or worse, killed. In an effort to protect their son, Kareem’s parents send him to live with his aunt and uncle in the United States. Sam is anxious to join Spirit Squad, but struggles because the leader is a bully and her best friend Ellie refuses to join her. Despite this, Sam is determined to incite school spirit through her artistic talents in writing and drawing. Disappointed that her best friend Sam has joined the Spirit Squad, Ellie becomes close to Kareem when the two embark on their own form of raising awareness through tagging with graffiti. Graffiti in Allansdale brings out two opposing sides throughout social media. Thought-provoking and heartfelt, this novel parallels the struggles teens feel with loss and bullying situations to the oppression that citizens often feel when the government is deceitful. Preteens and teens will find this book relatable and real.
VERDICT An outstanding novel that hits its mark, demonstrating that young teens grapple with a gamut of emotions and situations yet are resilient enough to work through them and achieve success. Highly recommended.

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