Friday, April 30, 2021

Freeform Friday: Home is Not a Country - Safia Elhillo

Summary: Nima doesn't feel understood. By her mother, who grew up far away in a different land. By her suburban town, which makes her feel too much like an outsider to fit in and not enough like an outsider to feel like that she belongs somewhere else. At least she has her childhood friend Haitham, with whom she can let her guard down and be herself.Until she doesn't.

As the ground is pulled out from under her, Nima must grapple with the phantom of a life not chosen, the name her parents didn't give her at birth: Yasmeen. But that other name, that other girl, might just be more real than Nima knows. And more hungry.And the life Nima has, the one she keeps wishing were someone else's. . .she might have to fight for it with a fierceness she never knew she had.

Nothing short of magic...One of the best writers of our times.-- Elizabeth Acevedo, New York Times Bestselling author of The Poet X. (Summary and pic from

My Review: I have to admit that it is not my natural inclination to pick up a book written in verse. I have read them, I am fine with them, and I will even sometimes enjoy the odd poetry book here or there. It just isn’t my natural inclination. However, I felt like this book really worked in verse. I think one of the strongest capabilities that verse has is to say things in a weighted way, and yet it can be sparse. The heaviness is in the beauty of the writing. Elhillo used this heaviness well. The pages, so bare of words, were rich with meaning and feeling and it was a perfect mirror of what was happening in the life of this girl who felt like an outsider. It made for very poignant and moving reading.

I enjoyed this book not only because it was a good story, but because it took unexpected directions. I did not expect it to go where it did. I’m always happily surprised when this happens, and I think that a little surprise and some twists and turns make for good reading.

The book only took me a few hours to read. The story was engaging and moved along, and the writing style was easy to get into once I got going. The story sucks you right in, and you can’t help but feel bad for this girl who felt on the outside and could have so easily been invited in. It made me question relationships I had had in my life, especially when I was in high school. Did I deny anyone the simple act of an easy smile or a friendly “hello” that would have made all the difference? I certainly hope not, but as with all high school experiences, I can find the truth somewhat from this lens of age and experience, but its hard to see past my own feelings and not re-write history.

I think this would be an excellent book for an English class reading, or anywhere YA readers would be and be able to discuss and reflect upon the themes in this book. Because of the nature of a book in verse, I’m not sure that a standard YA reader would pick this book up, although I certainly think that some more avid readers would, but I want it to touch many YA readers and allow them to sit with the experiences and thoughts this book brings about. I think adults will really love this book as well, and will also connect with it on many levels.

You should read this book. Go do it.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some language and discussion of an affair.

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