World in Between: Based on a True Refugee Story

Clarion. Jul. 2021. 384p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780358439875.
Gr 4-6–In this moving autobiographical novel, author Trebincevic recalls his family’s harrowing emigration from Yugoslavia’s Bosnia province to the United States when he was 11 years old. A typical tween, Kenan loves playing fudbol (soccer), hanging out with best friend Vik, and impressing pretty classmate Lena. Political unrest in neighboring provinces quickly spreads to Kenan’s peaceful hometown, bringing war to the streets and turning friends into deadly enemies. Kenan, his older brother, and their parents flee with nothing but what fits in their suitcases. For the next two years, Kenan and his family endure a grueling, dangerous relocation through several countries, ending in the United States, specifically Connecticut. At each step Kenan and his family are met with alternating cruelty and kindness, making it difficult for the new immigrants to know whom to trust as they adjust to their new life. Trebincevic provides backstory to help readers understand the political forces that tore his home country apart, balancing that information with his own youthful bewilderment and anger, with which readers will readily empathize. The details of the family’s multiple near-death experiences are gripping, although the novel’s pace drags a bit midway through. The author’s note provides fascinating details about the book’s evolution and Kenan’s collaboration with his coauthor.
VERDICT An essential purchase for all middle grade collections, as well as school curricula on contemporary world history and immigration.

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