Book: Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
Published May 2018 by Nancy Paulsen Books|240 pages
Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when—as the eldest daughter—she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens—after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.
Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal—especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.
Here is another really great middle grade contemporary! I really enjoyed this one, and I actually felt really sad for Amal. I can’t imagine a world where you have to work as a servant to pay off debt and because you said the wrong thing to the wrong person…especially at the age of 12.
Initially, I assumed that this book was historical fiction, and then I was horrified and sad when I realized it was more contemporary. I feel terrible that I had assumed indentured servants were a thing of the past, but that the Khan family used children as servants made me feel sick to my stomach.
I loved Amal, and all she wanted was to go to school. Things changed, and not surprisingly, things worked out for her in the end. This book showed how important it is to speak out against injustice, and that everyone deserves an education. I’m lucky that I have had chances that Amal didn’t have, and while I appreciated the author’s note at the end of the book, the part of me that wants to learn more wishes there were a list of books for further reading. Maybe that’s just me though.
It was a little bit darker than what I would expect for middle grade, but it’s not too dark for younger readers. I was dropped into Amal’s world, and she is a character that I enjoyed seeing. I loved her relationship with her family and friends, and how she found new friends at the Khan estate. Saeed did such a great job at showing Amal’s village and you really felt Amal’s need to get back to her family.
4 stars. I would recommend Amal Unbound to everyone. I loved Amal’s determination to do what was right, and her story is one everyone needs to read.