You can’t get away from the truth. That can be scary. Sometimes, you have no idea what the truth is. That is even scarier. In Borderline, Printz-Honor winning author Allan Stratton spotlights a story that reads like it might have sprung straight from today’s news. It’s scary, but not in the ways you might expect – and that’s what makes it worth reading.

Sami Sabiri is pretty much used to being the only Muslim kid at his school. It hasn’t ever been easy, and there are still kids who bully and abuse him for his different faith, but he copes with it, trying to fly low on the radar. Attention is exactly what Sami gets when out of the blue, the FBI raids his home, taking his father into custody under suspicion of involvement in an international terror plot. To make things even worse, Sami has been feeling suspicious about his dad’s behaviour for a while. Suddenly all that Sami once believed in is shaken. Truth seems completely unreachable.

Borderline is a thought-provoking book that will make you consider the human story behind those headlines we’ve all read about terrorism and terror plots and wrongful accusation. It will make you wonder to what degree your thinking and your perspectives have been skewed or influenced by stories in the news, even if you try to stay open and not stereotype or jump to conclusions. I thought it was a clever angle for Stratton to have Sami questioning his knowledge of his father, just as the larger community in the story (and readers) wonder about his guilt or innocence and form ideas right from the moment he is accused. The public has doubts. We aren’t sure. Sami is uncertain. It’s not just the people on the outside who are suspicious. I like how Stratton introduces readers to complex and current issues, in a subtle and accessible way, without making it seem didactic or like he’s just trying to grab onto something of the moment. Borderline is a tightly written, suspenseful family drama, about identity, prejudice, and the media’s influence on the way we perceive and judge others. Perfect for news junkies, and social justice activists in training.

Borderline is published by Harper Trophy Canada. It is set to be released in early 2010. (February / March-ish… looks like!)

This review is cross-posted at Guys Lit Wire.

4 thoughts on “Borderline

  1. Andrea Delumeau

    hi, i got here because you commented on “welcome to my tweendom”, less disturbing books:

    i am having this delightful exchange with an author ,hearther vogel frederick, of this great series for tweens called “the mother daughter book club”, they introduce kids to classics like anne of green gables or little women!
    here is what she wrote earlier:

    I completely agree with you about the importance of living in another culture – it certainly broadened my horizons. My family moved to England for a while when I was 11, and it was a wonderful experience. Later, I had the opportunity twice to live in Germany, once in Ulm, and once in Cologne. You’ll be pleased to know that I decided to send one of my characters abroad in the next book – Emma and her family are moving to England for the year!

    As far as why I’m sticking with classics as opposed to “modern” classics, I guess that much as I love Judy Blume & many present-day writers, I just felt that there are certain books that should be a part of every girl’s “mental wallpaper” – books that their mothers and grandmothers loved, books that may not be on the radar screen as much as modern classics but that still deserve to be appreciated by a new crop of readers. There’s a reason that we’re still reading “Little Women” and “Anne of Green Gables”! And reading them knits us together with the generations of women who have gone before us. (That probably sounds pretentious, but I don’t mean it that way.)

    highly recommend her!

  2. Margo Dill

    WOW! What a timely topic for a book. It amazes me how authors can pull off these types of books and get them out there for kids to read and discuss. Thanks for sharing this with us! 🙂

  3. Paige Y.

    Would you recommend Borderline for middle schoolers? The only review I could find posted for it is Booklist and they recommend grades 8 – up but I don’t always agree with them. I’m always looking for books that will appeal to boys and this sounds as if it would.

  4. shelfelf Post author

    Andrea – thanks so much for sharing your perspective on the classic works of children’s literature. I’m with you – so many of these books continue to resonate with children. I liked how you put it, that many classics deserve to become part of young readers’ “mental wallpaper” (great phrase). I don’t know how many of my students have read some of the classics. I think it’d be near criminal for a girl not to read Anne of Green Gables.

    Margo, I agree that it seems so amazing that authors manage to get topical books out at just the right moment. I feel like there are a few children’s authors who just look for intense or hot topics and write to capitalize on an issue. I won’t name names, but there is one author in particular who seems to come out with 5 books a year, each one on some kind of hot topic that is controversial or sensational. That bugs me. It seems dishonorable. I don’t think Stratton is that kind of author.

    Paige – I’d say that a mature Grade 6 student could handle it, but it would depend entirely on the kid, and his/her understanding of the issues. These days, I’ve heard many really young kids using the words terrorist and terrorism. This book might help to educate kids a bit, take some of the unknown out of this very adult subject. There aren’t any acts of terror in the book. It focuses on terror plots and wrongful accusation. Hope that helps

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