From Publishers Weekly
Thirteen-year old Joshua's circumscribed life in the newly developed and carefully guarded town of Amarias changes when a search for his soccer ball takes him over The Wall. This barrier separates his people from those on the other side, who are, according to his stepfather, "Terrorists! People who want to kill us!" Joshua's discovery of a bulldozed house, a tunnel, and a town so different from his-both in its liveliness and its poverty-along with an act of friendship from a supposed enemy challenge this perspective. Narrating in first-person present tense, Joshua shares his internal struggles and corresponding actions as his growing awareness of contrasting social realities awaken him to a world of nuance, political complexity, and ethical dilemmas. For example, a request from his new friends to water their orchard on his side of The Wall leads Joshua to defy parental limits and government strictures. Throughout this riveting story, which parallels the conflict on Israel's West Bank, adult author Sutcliffe conveys a sense of the moral imperative to bear witness and risk failure in pursuit of justice. Ages 12-up. Agent: Felicity Rubinstein, Lutyens & Rubinstein.
From School Library Journal
Gr 7-10–Drawing from the military and cultural tensions in the West Bank, this is a deeply moving tale about a boy whose life dramatically shifts once he realizes the truth about where he lives. Thirteen-year-old Joshua lives with his mother and stepfather in Amarias, a heavily guarded town with a high wall meant to keep out the militants who presumably live on the other side. While searching for an errant soccer ball, he comes across a tunnel leading underneath the Wall. Realizing that he won't get a glimpse of what lies beyond it until his military conscription in a few years, the curious teen crawls toward the unknown. Upon emerging, Joshua is chased by boys who are intent on harming him. Risking her own life, Leila offers Joshua refuge in her home and later leads him safely back to the tunnel. From this point on, the novel takes on a decidedly existential tone; Joshua is crippled with guilt over his inability to help Leila overcome her many hardships. He also struggles to reconcile his parents' firmly held ideas about the “militants” with the girl who saved him. Joshua's feelings lead him to make several well-meaning choices that do more harm than good for Leila and her family. His tenuous relationship with his stepfather worsens, culminating in a terrifying standoff. Through brilliant pacing and a relatable protagonist, Sutcliffe sensitively portrays the brutal realities of military occupation. For those wishing to understand more about the West Bank, there is a helpful author's note with suggested readings. Recommend with Elizabeth Laird's A Little Piece of Ground (Haymarket, 2006) and Michael Morpurgo's Shadow (Feiwel & Friends, 2012) to readers interested in learning more about conflicts in the Middle East.–Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, CAα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.