By A. M. Dassu
If I could give this book every star in the sky I would. Poignant, powerful and perfectly crafted, Boy, Everywhere is a true testament of hope, kindness, and human spirit. A. M. Dassu - Deputy Editor of SCBWI-BI's Words & Pictures, Director of Inclusive Minds, and now debut author - is reaching extraordinary heights that few authors achieve with their debuts, and with it Az is breaking down borders, challenging stereotypes and changing lives - quite literally as Az has used her publishing deal advances to assist Syrian refugees in her city and set up a grant to support an unpublished refugee/recently immigrated writer.
Boy, Everywhere chronicles the harrowing journey taken by 13-year-old Sami and his family from privilege to poverty, across countries and continents, from a comfortable life in Damascus, via a smuggler's den in Turkey, to a prison in Manchester.
For Sami, and like any young teenager, life revolves around his friends, football, PlayStation and iPad. His life is beautifully ordinary, until a catastrophic bombing in a nearby shopping mall changes his life completely. Without even a chance to say goodbye to his best friend, Sami, his parents and little sister Sara make a desperate flee from their comfortable home in Damascus in the hope of finding a new, safe life in the UK. And so begins a perilous and painful journey across treacherous seas and violent detention centres. Poverty, racism, hostility and homelessness are just a few of the harsh realities Sami and his family face as they cross Europe, but this is gracefully balanced with faith, friendship, resilience and courage.
Sami is an unforgettable character. He's relatable, raw and refreshingly realistic. His confusion, embarrassment, anger, guilt, discomfort and bravery tug and tear at your heart strings as you witness him encounter experiences that no child, or being, should ever have to endure. And it's this reminder, that this is real and this is happening right now, that makes Boy, Everywhere the groundbreaking book that it is. Az sensitively illuminates the heart-breaking reality of the Syrian conflict and imparts empathy and understanding on the plight of refugees in a way that figures and facts in a news story will never do.
Az writes in her acknowledgments her hope that in a world where we are told to see refugees as ‘other’, readers will agree that ‘they’ are also ‘us’. Well Boy, Everywhere does that and so much more. It's eye-opening and profoundly timely, but it's also a captivating and vivid, edge-of-your-seat, page-turner. You won't be able to put it down. Az writes fearlessly but with passion and deep knowledge, and skilfully brings to life the sights, smells, sounds - and the terror - of Sami's journey.
Boy, Everywhere is an important story of our time and I implore you all to read it, share it, and never forget it.