The two previous books by N.H. Senzai that I read, Shooting Kabul and Saving Kabul Corner, were both about Afghan immigrants to the United States, and they were both good, informative reads. Escape From Aleppo is set in Syria, mostly in 2013, as the protagonist, Nadia, becomes separated from her family and is caught between government troops, rebel brigades, and ISIS fighters, as she tries to flee to Turkey for safety and to find her family.
The story is a little heavy on the “informative” side, probably necessarily so considering the ignorance of most Americans in regard to Syrian history and politics. Nevertheless, I enjoy learning about history and current events through the medium of fiction, and Escape From Aleppo tells a good tale of life and the struggle for survival in a war-torn country.
Fourteen year old Nadia, even as she is escaping the bombs and snipers of Aleppo, remembers her twelfth birthday, December 17, 2010, which happened to coincide with the beginning of the “Arab Spring” insurrections and demonstrations, all ignited by a young man’s suicide in Tunisia. The civil unrest and rebellion against “authoritarian regimes” moves to Syria in 2011, and to Aleppo where Nadia lives in 2012. All of this history is covered in the book by means of interspersed flashback chapters that interrupt the flow of the narrative about Nadia’s journey to safety at the Turkish border through war-torn Aleppo and through the Syrian countryside. However, I’m not sure how the background information could have been conveyed in any other way, and I did learn a lot about recent Syrian history and government, and a little about more ancient Syrian history.
The story includes some mystery; who is the mysterious old man with the donkey who agrees to help Nadia reach the Turkish border? And there’s quite a bit of suspense and adventure. Of course, since it takes place in the middle of a war, there’s violence and tragedy, but none of the descriptions is too horribly graphic. Nadia is the central and most fully realized character in the book, and readers will identify with her fight to grow up quickly, be brave, and take charge of her life and her journey.