I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Welcome To Nowhere by Elizabeth Laird
Published by Macmillan Children's Books on 12th January 2017
Twelve-year-old Omar and his brothers and sisters were born and raised in the beautiful and bustling city of Bosra, Syria. Omar doesn't care about politics - all he wants is to grow up to become a successful businessman who will take the world by storm. But when his clever older brother, Musa, gets mixed up with some young political activists, everything changes . . .
Before long, bombs are falling, people are dying, and Omar and his family have no choice but to flee their home with only what they can carry. Yet no matter how far they run, the shadow of war follows them - until they have no other choice than to attempt the dangerous journey to escape their homeland altogether. But where do you go when you can't go home?
I hadn’t ever read any of Elizabeth Laird’s work prior to picking up Welcome To Nowhere. I’ve been meaning to, but just haven’t got to them yet. Now that I’ve read Welcome To Nowhere I intend to bump her other work up my TBR!
Although this is a work of fiction, it draws upon the real-life experiences of Syrians as the civil war broke out, as well as their experiences of leaving their homeland for refugee camps. Laird has clearly researched the topic and spoken to those who have lived through it. It’s from these experiences that she creates the character of teenage Syrian boy Omar and his family.
Omar and his family live in Bosra. It’s before the outbreak of civil war and he juggles two jobs with his schoolwork, dreaming of owning his own business one day. His older brother Musa has cerebral palsy and is more of a scholar, as is his sister who dreams of being a school teacher. His two youngest siblings are still too young for such thoughts.
When Omar’s father’s Government job moves the family to Daraa things get harder for Omar and Musa finds himself mixing with teenage revolutionaries. When trouble breaks out the family are caught in a war zone and eventually must leave firstly the city, and then Syria for their own safety.
I found this book not only very interesting but also emotional to read. It addresses some very real and timely issues. While it may be aimed at the younger audience, many adults could do with reading this.
This story underlines the fact that refugees are real people! While this isn’t the time for me to stand on my soapbox, I feel that the media often cast a certain light on the issue. It’s all too easy for the rest of the world to forget that these people are just like us. They are families who work, who love, who live. They are families who found their worlds turned upside down on their own doorsteps. I applaud Laird for telling this story.
While I really liked Omar and his own personal journey, it was Musa and his relationship with his brother that particularly interested me. In introducing Musa, Laird tackles adds further issues into the mix. Firstly, that of teenage revolutionaries. For me though, there was a personal aspect to Musa’s story – how the less mobile, ill or weak manage to escape from the War. As a wheelchair user myself, this really got my thinking about those who can’t make dangerous midnight journeys to try and save their lives.
Furthermore, it was fascinating to read about the Jordanian refugee camp. I guess it’s easy to think that having made it out of Syria, everyone will be safe. But the reality of the refugee camp and what follows is a story in itself.
All in all, I thought this book was well done. It’s enlightening, thought-provoking and emotional. There are many more topics and issues weaved through these pages; in fact I could probably talk about this book all day!
I like that Laird challenges the reader to decide for themselves how life turns out for the family. After all, as a school, town, country, world, aren’t we responsible for helping to determine the paths and lives of these refugees? How would we want to be treated in similar circumstances?
As I say, I feel many adults could learn from this book too!