Amal Unboud by Aisha Saeed
This is one of the best covers I have seen for a middle grades novel! It's bright and bold just like the writing. After seeing this on the new release calendar, I just couldn't get the cover out of my head. So I naturally ordered it for the youth department.
And not going to lie, I was disappointed that a cataloging record wasn't immediately available but that also meant I could sneak it home and read it before the kids.
This book is wonderful. I finished it in one sitting because I had to know if Amal was going to be o.k. in the end. Our story is told by Amal, the daughter of middle class parents in Pakistan. She's passionate about her studies and wants to become a teacher after attending university. After her mother gives birth to a daughter and closes herself off from the family while battling postpartum depression, Amal is left in charge of the household and her studies are put on hold. Amal does her best to take care of her sisters while trying to keep up with all her household chores. After a particularly long day, Amal leaves for the market for a few minutes of peace by herself. Upon leaving, she is struck by car and is confronted by one of the passengers. At first he seems helpful, offering to take her home. But his tone quickly changes and Amal feels that something is off with him. When he tries to take the pomegranate that fell from her bag, the last in the market, Amal takes it back and asks how he can hit her with a car and then try to take her things?
What Amal doesn't know, is the man is Jawad Sahib, a powerful business man who the entire neighborhood is indebted to. Including Amal's family. When Jawad confronts her father about Amal's behavior, her father is forced to give Amal to Jawad act as a servant as punishment for her disrespectful behavior. Amal's dreams of school, teaching, and being with her family are now gone.
Once Amal enters Jawad's household, she has even more obstacles to overcome. Amal wasn't raised to be a servant and to be treated like an object is very new to her. When she is informed that she will be personal maid to Jawad's mother Nasreen, Amal believes her time there will be easier. Unfortunately, another maid repeatedly sets her up for failure. Not only that, Amal has no way to contact her family or friends and is cut off from her books. Eventually, Amal is given the opportunity to not only change her life, but the lives of those around her.
This book was amazing. The story was fast paced with well developed characters. I spent the whole book hoping there would be a happy ending for Amal, but the story really keeps you guessing about how it will end. Amal's character is not only strong and brave but she really shows how important perseverance can be.