Enduring Freedom
by Arash, Jawad; Reedy, Trent

A dual-narrative tale finds a young American army private and an Afghan youth living under the horrors of the Taliban caught on opposing sides during the tumultuous events leading up to and following September 11, 2001. 20,000 first printing.

Trent Reedy served as a combat engineer in the Iowa Army National Guard from 1999 to 2005, including a year's tour of duty in Afghanistan, where he befriended Jawad Arash. Based upon his experiences there, he wrote his debut middle-grade novel, Words in the Dust, which won the Christopher Medal and was chosen for Al Roker's Book Club for Kids on the Today show. His novels Stealing Air, If You're Reading This, and the Divided We Fall trilogy were Junior Library Guild selections. His seventh novel, Gamer Army, was published in late 2018. Trent also writes a weekly military life column for the Washington Examiner. He lives with his family outside Spokane, Washington.

Jawad Arash's home country of Afghanistan has been at war throughout his entire life. Nevertheless, Jawad remained optimistic for his future. Despite challenges imposed by war, he developed a love for learning and wanted to help build a new and better Afghanistan. Enduring Freedom is his debut novel.

When 19-year-old Joe Killian's Iowa National Guard unit is deployed to Afghanistan in 2003, the budding journalist wants two things: to fight and to write about the war, dubbed Operation Enduring Freedom. Instead, he is dismayed to learn that his unit is on a dull reconstruction mission. Worse, he thinks "the whole place is worthless, its people, ignorant savages." Joe is billeted in a safe house immediately adjacent to 16-year-old Baheer's family home. The two young men meet when Baheer approaches Joe, hoping to practice his English. The language brings the two together, and they gradually become friends. As Joe comes to know Baheer better, he begins to change his opinion of the country and its people. The engaging story moves back and forth between Joe and Baheer, offering readers an intimate look at the Afghan people and their lives in a country perpetually at war. Coauthors Reedy and Arash are especially good at character development and setting. This book, with its dual perspectives, will be especially good for classroom use and discussion. Grades 8-11. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

A dual-perspective narrative detailing the events of Operation Enduring Freedom through the eyes of an Afghan teen and a young American soldier. In the days leading up to 9/11, 16-year-old Baheer and his family lived in fear of the Taliban and their strict laws. Joe Killian, a high school senior and Iowa Army National Guard enlistee, is angered by the al-Qaida attacks and eager for revenge. So he is disappointed to learn that his unit is in fact tasked with the rehabilitation of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, studious Baheer is optimistic as he approaches the U.S. soldiers in hopes of improving his English and bettering his country with these new allies. Their first encounter does not go well, but Baheer and Joe over time develop a friendship as they help each other learn and dismantle prejudices. Rather than attempting to be a sociopolitical history, this is an intensely personal story inspired by a real-life friendship: The authors, who met in the same way as the protagonists, blend their individual perspectives and ideologies into a cohesive narrative. Though there are some issues with pacing, the book overall does a solid job of showing the impact of their bond while acknowledging that others on both sides held differing views. The message of education as a vehicle for progress and dismantling hatred is one that will strike a chord with readers. A touching tale of understanding and friendship. (authors' notes) (Historical fiction. 13-18) Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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