Ahmed Aziz's Epic Year
by Hamza, Nina

Moving from Hawaii to Minnesota, Ahmed Aziz is having the worst year until he deals with bullies, makes new friends and uncovers his family's past-all while finding himself in three books assigned for his English class. 40,000 first printing. Simultaneous eBook.

Narrated by Ahmed when he's slightly older but still sarcastic, this debut novel is an affecting reflection on the boy's tumultuous sixth-grade year. His story begins with a sudden move from Hawaii to Minnesota, where his father can get the risky but lifesaving medical treatment he needs. Compounding an already stressful situation is the fact that Ahmed is the newest target of his class' bully, the white and überpopular Jack, which Ahmed assumes is due to his brown skin, courtesy of his Indian heritage. Hamza has a lot of nuanced plotlines in play-and she does an admirable job of keeping them all relevant to the main narrative and following them to completion-some of the themes of which are family, finding yourself, faith, dealing with hate crimes, and friendship. A particular touchstone will be the language arts class where Ahmed has a bit of a breakthrough while studying classics many readers will be familiar with. As for Ahmed, he is a kind, intelligent underachiever whom readers will feel for as he struggles and perseveres. Grades 5-8. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Twelve-year-old Ahmed Aziz has never lived anywhere other than Hawaii, where everyone in his neighborhood knows everything about him. When his Indian American Muslim family moves to his father's hometown in Minnesota-one of three places in the world where his father can get the treatment he needs to recover from an inherited form of hepatitis C-Ahmed is anxious, heartbroken, and afraid. Things do not get off to a promising start. On Ahmed's first day at his mostly White school, his neighbor Jack bullies him. Plus Ahmed is assigned to an accelerated section of language arts, a class taught by his father's old friend Janet Gaardner-even though he hates to read. Ahmed's homesickness only intensifies as he struggles to find a place among his peers and as his father's illness worsens. However, he begins to find comfort in places he never expected, including in hearing memories of his uncle, who died at the age of 12 in the same hospital where Ahmed's dad is now fighting for his life. Eventually Ahmed realizes that he is best loved and happiest when he is himself. This well-paced book tells a compassionate and authentic story about how families deal with intergenerational grief. The author seamlessly incorporates details of Ahmed's heritage alongside his father's Midwestern childhood, in the process accurately and unapologetically portraying Ahmed's multifaceted identity. An emotionally perceptive book about grief, identity, and change. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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