Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Review: Other Words for Home

Other Words for Home Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Verse novel about a young girl who has to move from her home to a new place, and how, and when, and if, that new place can ever be "home."

Read because it was a Notables and Newbery Honor.

Jude, twelve, lives in a beach side town, popular with tourists, with her older brother and parents. Her best friend lives just across the way. The first part of the book is about home, and friendships, and food, and movies, and dreams -- dreams of acting, like the people in her favorite movies. Her older brother, Issa, is getting involved in politics, loudly protesting the current president, and wanting to live in his own apartment.

Jude lives in Syria. The politics are against the Syrian president. The civil war means that well off tourists may no longer be coming to their town. Every day, the violence is growing closer, the danger getting closer, so, the family makes the heart breaking decision to send Jude and her mother to the states, to visit with her mother's brother, until things calm down at home.

The next part is that move: how Jude goes from thinking her English is good to realizing it is not. She misses her family and her best friend. Her uncle and aunt make an effort to be welcoming, but her uncle married an American and neither his wife nor his daughter speak the Arabic. His daughter, Sarah, comes across as almost indifferent to her aunt and cousin.

Jude adjusts to her new life, and starts at a new school, where there aren't many people who look like her, but there are people from all over the world. Her ESL class has students from Somalia, Korea, and China. She sees only one other girl who wears a headscarf.

And yet, there is happiness, as Jude makes friends and discovers that her school has a play, and that maybe her dream of acting is something that can be made real.

This book was so good! I felt for Jude, and for her mother, their loss and confusion and both wanting this new place to be home but also not wanting to give up on their home. And I loved how this didn't give any unrealistic endings. There is sadness but not tragedy, if that makes sense.

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