For all of us waiting to see what happened to the characters from Shooting Kabul, N.H. Senzai answers that question in Saving Kabul Corner, while maintaining a stand alone story of mystery and family. It is not necessary to read Shooting Kabul first, and if you have not recently read Shooting Kabul you may not even realize that some of the characters cross over into this book. The books are drastically different in tone and style and purpose.
Saving Kabul Corner takes a while to get going, nearly 100 pages. There are so many characters that I started reading this book months ago, put it down and forgot about it. I picked it up two nights ago and resolving to just read it and not worry about who all the characters were, I finished it in two sittings and enjoyed it. The buildup is important to set the stage, but young readers might have to be encouraged to get through all the pettiness of the characters, the numerous back stories and sub plots to get into the flow of the novel and the who-done-it aspect of the book.
Ariana is a 12-year-old Afghani-American girl with siblings, cousins, aunts, all living in their cramped townhouse. The family owns Kabul Corner an Afghan grocery story in Freemont, California. Things are going along fairly well, despite the recent arrival of Ariana’s cousin Laila who couldn’t be more different than Ariana, resulting in jealousy and disdain. When a new Afghan store opens in the same plaza as Kabul Corner, tempers and old country feuds resurface. Tribal concepts of badal, revenge, and honor start to make their way into their American lives. When the feuding escalates to vandalism, theft, and arson, the kids of both families are convinced that a third party is pitting the stores against each other and set out to find the real culprit.
WHY I LIKE IT:
I like that the characters are American, but cultural too. They are Muslim and mention going to the mosque, but their actions unfortunately don’t depict Islam in a consistent manner. Most notably they do celebrate Halloween, and they lie a lot. Because the book is a A.R. level 6.1 I haven’t completely ruled out using it as a book club book. I think it might be a way to discuss with the students the purpose of literature. How some books leave the reader with a moral, or something to ponder, while some are just entertainment. The lying in this book is quite extensive and yet, both the kids and the adults have to lie to get the truth. The author makes note of it, so at least it is identified as an anomaly, but still I’ve not yet resolved if I can explain to the kids that the ends don’t justify the means in real life. I like that the book is a mystery, so many books with cultural twinges focus on all the “cultural” obstacles and injustices and hardships, it was nice to read a book where the characters and the store just happened to be ethnic in nature. I think the characters’ culture adds depth, but won’t turn readers away as it is clearly written for the typical American young adult reader. There is a glossary in the back, but it isn’t as daunting as other novels out there. The book is 273 pages and also has an Author’s Note and a Further Reading Section.
The lying for sure, and the theft. There are no concerns with relationships, language, violence, or disrespect.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION: