Life as Fadi knows it ends the night he and his family make their narrow escape from Afghanistan’s oppressive Taliban rule; it is the same night that his six-year-old sister Mariam becomes lost and left behind in the increasingly unstable Middle East. Fadi and his parents and older sister Noor are forced to press on to their new home in California to avoid capture, all blaming themselves for sweet Mariam’s unfortunate disappearance. All four of them try to make the best out of a bad situation while their overseas connections mount searches for Mariam. Fadi begins middle school and finds comfort in the after-school photography club and his new friendship with bossy Chinese classmate Anh.
What little peace and solace Fadi finds is short-lived, though, as the events on September 11, 2001, turn his life upside down once again. He quickly finds himself at odds with a group of dangerous racist bullies, and the political climate makes it even harder to find traces of the missing Mariam. Throughout all of the hardship and intolerance, his family struggles to keep their fervent hopes alive, and Fadi soon plans his own scheme to bring his little sister home. Everything hinges on the upcoming Societé Geographique photography contest, and he just knows that he can win the grand prize: plane tickets overseas. But how can he find the perfect shot?
N.H. Senzai writes very convincingly as likeable hero Fadi, and all of the rich details of Pukhtun culture enhance the story and will invite readers to learn more about Afghanistan and its people and history. A helpful glossary of terms and facts can be found at the back of the book. 272 pages. Ages 10-14