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Title: The Secret Sky
Author: Atia Abawi
Pub. Date: September 2, 2014
Genre: Young Adult
Rec. Age Level: 14+
More by this author: N/A
Set in present-day Afghanistan, this is the story of two teenagers, one Pashtun and one Hazara, who must fight against their culture, their tradition, their families, and the Taliban to stay together. Told in three rotating perspectives—the two teens and another boy in the village who turns them in to the local Taliban—this novel depicts both the violent realities of living in Afghanistan, as well as the beauty of the land and the cultures there. And it shows that love can bloom in even the darkest of places.
This is an absolute must read not just for teens but for anyone who has lived during the time of America's War in Afghanistan.
From the start, I want to make clear that this book is not a swoony, romantic YA novel. I mean, I think that should be pretty obvious given the setting and description, but you know what they say about assuming.
The Secret Sky is a powerful novel that you'll likely find difficult to read at times. Narrated by three characters, Fatima, Sami, and Rashid, Atia Abawi's debut chronicles the complicated romance between Fatima and Sami and the violent fallout. Rashid, Sami's cousin, narrates from outside of Fatima and Sami's relationship and, for me, was perhaps the most interesting character.
Rashid is a misguided youth who's moral compass is compromised by jealousy, anger, and hatred. It is Rashid who discovers the budding romance between Fatima and Sami and Rashid who manipulates the situation in an effort guarantee an outcome borne of hatred and violence. For me his character was interesting because I couldn't identify with his thought process and actions. I was fascinated this deeply flawed, deeply wrong individual. I wanted redemption for him; I wanted him to see the error in his ways.
I really felt for Sami and Fatima. I have a hard time understanding why two people who love and respect one another shouldn't be together, so the entire concept of their relationship being forbidden because they are from different cultural groups was really hard for me to stomach. Still, I feel better informed after reading The Secret Sky. I admit that I know very little about Afghanistan or the cultural groups that make up Afghani society. I have so much more left to learn, but, now, my interest is piqued. I hope that other readers - teens and adults alike - will read this novel and feel the need to go out and learn more about Sami and Fatima's world.