Where I Belong
by Cross, Gillian

Thirteen-year-old Khadija, a Somali refugee, becomes a model for a famous fashion designer to help her family back home, while the designer's daughter Freya and fourteen-year-old Abdi, whose family Khadija lives with in London, try to protect her.

Gillian Cross has been writing children's books for more than thirty years. She received degrees in English from Oxford and Sussex Universities in the United Kingdom. She lives in Dorset, United Kingdom.

After her parents arrange for her to be smuggled out of Somalia for her own safety, Khadija, 13, is adopted by a kind refugee family in London. Once in England, though, she learns that her younger brother, Mahmoud, is being held by kidnappers back home. To earn the exorbitant ransom money to set Mahmoud free, she agrees to work the runway as a model during Fashion Week. As Cross switches between the multiple viewpoints of Khadija, her adoptive brother and sister and their friends, and Mahmoud with his brutal captors, many readers will be as bewildered as Khadija about what, exactly, is going on. But in a novel that explores "layers and layers of hiding" and is filled with secrets and cover-ups, the confusion is part of the story, and the swings from desperate poverty to violent piracy to the glamorous Western fashion media will hold readers all the way to the tense climax. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

A contemporary international thriller is woven together from alternating first-person perspectives. Freya, daughter of a British fashion designer who wants to create a line based on Somali beauty and exotic mystery, Khadija, a recent Somali teenage immigrant to London, and Abdi, of Somali heritage but born in the Netherlands and now living in England, share the story. The action moves from Somalia to the Muslim neighborhoods of London and then from English fashion studios and model agencies back to Somalia for an over-the-top fashion show. There, Khadija finds her younger brother, who is being held for ransom by people who have found out her secret: She just may become the next international supermodel. (Think Iman.) The betrayals that take place here seem to belong in another, more serious book. Here they are passed by too quickly. Although the device of the multiple narrators is largely successful, the third-person pieces about Mahmoud, the kidnapped boy, are printed in bold type in Freya's chapters and do not make structural sense. The plot is driven by e-mail messages and texts, and most of the characters are made of equally flimsy fabric. There is something appealing about the adolescent characters (most of the adults are creeps), but this mishmash of a plot may have little meaning for most readers, especially if their knowledge of Somalia is limited. (Thriller. 11-14) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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