Refugee – Alan Gratz – 2017 – Historical MG fiction
Three different kids.
One mission in common: ESCAPE.
Josef is a Jewish boy in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world…
Isabel is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety and freedom in America…
Mahmoud is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe…
All three young people will go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers–from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But for each of them, there is always the hope of tomorrow. And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, surprising connections will tie their stories together in the end.
I learned so much from this book in particular about the refugees from Cuba. Being from the early 90’s I’m too young to remember it being on the news, and we were never taught about this at school as the UK were not involved (typical British school!). I already knew quite a bit about the Jewish exodus of Germany, and the troubles in the Middle East but I found myself empathising more than I’d thought with Mahmoud given how Muslim refugees are talked about in Western media.
My favourite character in this book was Josef, who was a Jew in World War 2. His story was so interesting, as I didn’t know anything about Jews trying to go to Cuba, and I found him the character who felt most motivated.
The only thing I’d change about this book is to have longer chapters. The chapters are only a couple of pages then we change to another character’s perspective and I think I’d have been more invested in each story if there’d been longer but fewer chapters.
I’d give this book 4.5 / 5. I think this is an important novel, both for MG and YA-aged readers, but also for adults as we forget to empathise in this time where we are taught to fear immigrants.