*I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review*
N.H. Senzai’s newest novel, Escape from Aleppo (officially released on January 2, 2018), demonstrates the power of storytelling and the importance of family, history, and culture, all while creating a story that makes the topic of Syria approachable to both young and older readers.
Escape from Aleppo tells the story of Nadia, a young girl living in a war-torn Syria, who attempts to flee with her family but gets separated from them during the chaos of bombs dropping nearby. Throughout the novel, Nadia often compares her life before the civil war–in which her greatest concern was mostly her painted nails–to the life full of hardship, caution, and tragedy she was currently experiencing. In this, Senzai contemplates the desensitized culture of today’s society, where the people focus on the “important” things in their life, while drowning out the problems of the rest of the world. However, through Escape from Aleppo, Senzai also re-sensitizes readers to the horrors occuring in our world, as well as the drastic differences in lifestyles (even though there are many similarities, too).
Although the main audience for this novel are middle-grade readers, older readers can still benefit from Escape from Aleppo: Senzai touches upon PTSD and anxiety (Nadia freezes when she hears the bombs because of a previous incident), fear and loneliness, and family and the idea of home. When I began reading this novel, I had a general idea of what was happening in Syria, but I was less informed than I should have been. Even though Nadia’s story is one of fiction with a happier ending, its backdrop tells the true story. In Syria, Bashar al-Assad’s authoritarian government holds control, but the emergence of multiple rebel groups challenges this corruption with, more often than not, violent strategies. Thus, Syria has been locked in a civil war since 2011, which, as Senzai writes extensively about, has destroyed more history of culture of Syria than all of the wars before.
Although the story primarily focuses on Syria, Senzai also refers to the religious conflict that has exploded in the Middle East while giving small insight into Islam and its practices, a religion which has always been peaceful. Towards the end of the novel, Nadia is exposed to ISIS, who are not portrayed as a violent militant group, as the media generally does, but rather with a more human edge. Especially in times of war, many lose the perception of people as human. As Senzai expresses in the author’s note, Escape from Aleppo allows readers to see the human faces behind the warring nations.
Thank you to the author and Simon & Schuster for allowing me to review Escape from Aleppo.