From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-American eighth-grader K.C. struggles in school, her parents are divorced, and she feels like a failure next to her perfect brother. Nawra, 14, is illiterate and pregnant from a rape; she lives in an Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp in Darfur. The girls get to know each other through a letter exchange organized by a charity working in Sudan. Their story is told through first-person narratives and their letters. Nawra describes the brutal violence taking place in her country and the terrible things that have happened to her and her extended family-homes have been destroyed, bombs dropped, and women and children have been forced to witness atrocities being inflicted on loved ones. Yet she is thankful to be alive and draws strength from her faith and the proverbial wisdom of her grandmother, which she routinely shares in her dictated letters. She is able to nurse her mother back to health and reaches out to help those around her in spite of her difficult circumstances. K.C.'s problems seem pale in comparison, but Whitman deftly puts both girls' concerns in the contexts of their very different worlds. K.C. becomes active at school in helping raise awareness and funds to help the people in the IDP camp. Nawra's flashbacks and the time lag between letters can make it difficult to understand the sequence of events, but the horrific happenings are easier to take in and process in the girls' back-and-forth exchanges. In the author's note, Whitman writes how she hoped her novel would be historical fiction by the time it was published. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Nonetheless, this powerful and important book has a lot to say to young people about seeing beyond their own struggles and opening their minds and hearts to others.-Nancy P. Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SCα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
There have been several books about the boy soldiers of Sudan, but the focus in Whitman’s debut novel is on a contemporary young Sudanese girl caught up in the horrific civil war. Living in a refugee camp in drought-stricken Darfur, Nawra, 14, is pregnant after being raped. She cannot read, but when she receives letters and donations through a charity from teenage K. C. Cannetti in Richmond, Virginia, a friend reads the letters and helps Nawra to write back and talk about her life. K. C. writes about her own problems—her parents’ divorce, the boy she likes, her shame about being in special ed—certainly nothing like the suffering in the camps, including hunger, and the complications that Nawra’s circumcision will cause while she is giving birth. Told both in letters and in alternating first-person present-tense narratives, this is really two parallel novels set worlds apart, and the constant switches sometimes get to be too much. But teen readers will be moved by the personal connections and by the stories behind news headlines. Grades 9-12. --Hazel Rochman