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I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.
Yasmeen is devastated to be leaving Detroit and the large community of Palestinian and Lebanese immigrants where she fit in so easily. San Antonio may have a great job for her dad, but there aren’t a lot of Arabs there. The kids at school can barely pronounce her name, and no one looks like her. Except the girl across the street, Ayelet Cohen, but she is definitely not Palestinian. In fact, she is an Israeli immigrant, the worst possible neighbor in her parents’ opinion.
But when Yasmeen meets Ayelet at school, she doesn’t seem hateful. They actually have a lot in common. And when Yasmeen’s math skills land her on a team of Mathletes (coached by Ayelet’s dad), Yasmeen realizes that her happiness at school might depend on keeping her association with the Cohen’s a secret from her parents. Unfortunately, not all secrets can be kept. With bullying increasing at school and tensions mounting in Palestine, Yasmeen’s own fragile peace might be about to explode.
Feldman tackles the complex and weighty topic of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the innocent and optimistic lens of a child’s budding friendship. She includes some of the political nuance of the real-world situation and pairs it with a subplot of middle school bullies which helps ground the Middle East conflict in the reality of her young American readers. A well-crafted, emotional middle grade novel for fans of contemporary fiction and for middle school book clubs and social studies classrooms.