Book: The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon
Published November 2016 by Disney-Hyperion|240 pages
Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library
Genre: MG Contemporary
Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of a distant homeland, Subhi has only ever known life behind the fences. But his world is far bigger than that—every night, the magical Night Sea from his mother’s stories brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. And as he grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of his containment.
The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie—a scruffy, impatient girl who appears on the other side of the wire fence and brings with her a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it herself, she relies on Subhi to unravel her family’s love songs and tragedies.
Subhi and Jimmie might both find comfort—and maybe even freedom—as their tales unfold. But not until each has been braver than ever before.
I honestly don’t know what I think about this book! I thought some things were confusing and strange but other things I really liked and thought were important to read about.
Let’s start with what I liked. I liked the look at a detention center for refugees. The conditions were horrible, and it makes me sad to think that anyone seeking asylum and fleeing their country may end up in similar conditions. It’s horrible that they’re known by number, and not by name. It’s sad and horrible the way they are treated, and all they want is a better life. But they are treated horribly, all because of where they’re from or what they believe in. People like Subhi and his family deserve so much better than that.
I felt for Subhi, but there were things that took me out of the book. The Night Sea didn’t make sense to me, and Subhi’s talking duck didn’t make sense to me either. It seemed like they were Subhi’s way of dealing with what was going on, and I get that, since the detention center was a horrible place. But it took me out of what was going on, and was really distracting. It was imaginative, but it did not work for me at all.
We really should question why they’re treated like criminals, and why they’re in detention centers for so long. I’m not sure how old Subhi is, but it seemed like he was born in the detention center. I’d say he’s around 10 or so, since this is a middle grade book, and I find insane and ridiculous that he’s been living there for so long. The system is broken if refugees/those seeking asylum are living in detention centers for that long. There has to be a better way to handle it.
I didn’t really care for Jimmie’s story. It’s odd to me that she couldn’t read, and I found myself skimming over her mother’s book when she and Subhi would read it together. Also, how on earth were they able to meet? It seemed odd that she’d be able to walk up to the fence. She sort of faded in the background (at least for me) but they did seem to have some sort of bond. We see how she learns how horrible things are for Subhi, and all of those in the detention center, and for Subhi, he gets a connection to the outside world, and a way for people to see the horrible conditions he, and others like him, have to live in.
It was a hard book for me to get into, and it started off really slow. It felt like things continued to move slowly, and while I knew it wasn’t going to be action-packed, I still wanted something to really capture my attention. But nothing really did.
Still, I think it’s a book that EVERYONE should read. It’s an important book, and the world does need more books like this one.
3 stars. I liked it, but there were some things that took away from what Subhi experienced in the detention center.