Book Review


The Boy at the Back of the Class

The library in my school is well-known for its vast collection of books and I often issue books that I enjoy reading. Most recently the book that I issued was ‘The Boy at the Back of the Class’. It is an emotional drama of 297 pages. The book is written by Onjali Q. Rauf and it was her debut book. It was published in 2018 by Pippa Curnick. At the onset of the story the readers are informed tht there was an unoccupied seat at the back of the class. A boy named Ahmet is seen sitting on that seat suddenly. He doesn't speak to anyone, seems very scared, and disappears at recess. The narrator, a 9-and-3/4-year-old British kid, along with a pack of friends, decides to befriend him: first with candy and oranges after school, then with soccer matches and displays of loyalty on the playground. When the kids learn that Ahmet is a refugee who has been separated from his family and has run away from a war; his new friends decide to take matters in their own hands and make a plan to help him.

The resulting madcap scenario is full of serious business, and it's an overall interesting and informative read. However, there's a disconnect between the political realities surrounding these 9- and 10-year-olds and what they actually understand about the world. For example, the narrator doesn't know that their family has a refugee story a generation back. Nor has the narrator heard of World War II, which seems pretty unrealistic for a kid living in modern-day London. Perhaps if the characters in the book have been portrayed as younger, the childishness would make more sense. Nevertheless, this book can serve as a resource for readers who want to learn more about the global refugee crisis through the eyes of a child.

The main character is a girl from whose point of view the whole book is written, and other characters are her classmates, Ahmet, the Queen of England and some school teachers.

I found the book a little slow because there wasn’t much happenings to make the story exciting. But I liked that the author had given us information on refugees and also asked some pertinent questions on the problems/issues faced by them. Overall, it was a warm-hearted first novel, a celebration of courage and friendship with a good sprinkling of mischief.

I recommend this book to readers of ages 9-12. Onjali Q. Rauf has written only two other books called The star outside my window and The day we met the queen,which I think is the next book in this series.

I give this book 3.5 points out of 5.

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