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Starred Review, School Library Journal, March 2013:
“To classify Out of Nowhere as a sports story sells it short… the novel is rich and multidimensional, addressing the Muslim experience in America, addiction, and romance.”
New York Times Book Review, February 10, 2013:
"[Padian] offers plenty of story in Out of Nowhere: romantic rivalries, class tensions, family pressures. She has a firm sense of plot, and the circumstances her characters grapple with - cyberbullying, the burden of a burnout friend, the pain of growing and changing - will resonate with young readers."
Booklist, February 15, 2013:
"Padian has written a sensitive, sympathetic, and insightful portrayal of the plight of new immigrants attempting to acculturate while being forced to deal with casual bigotry. A timely and thought-provoking examination of a continuing dynamic in American communities."
SLJ.com, March 5, 2013:
"Fast-paced descriptions of Tom and Saeed’s athletic prowess will easily draw in sports fans and Padian brings that same sense of urgency and energy to scenes that take place off the field, from tense, racially charged moments to Tom’s budding romance with a girl he meets at the center...This rich and nuanced title will spark plenty of discussion beyond soccer, and teens primarily attracted to the novel for the sports angle will come away with a greater understanding of issues such as racism and social justice."
Posted April 2, 2013
Wow. Just...wow. This book takes a fairly common character/plot combination (high school senior who seems to have everything, yet has zero motivation for college/life after high school due to general ambivalence about...well, his entire life) and adds an interesting twist--the addition of hundreds of Somalian refugees to his small Maine hometown.
Tom Bouchard appears to have a pretty easy life at the start of the book. He's captain of the soccer team--which has a decent record, though not great--and one of the most popular girls at school is his girlfriend. His parents are supportive of him, and the largest source of conflict in his life is the fact that his aunt and uncle (his mother's brother and sister) disagree on just about everything. Oh, and the fact that he can't seem to motivate himself to fill out any college applications--but he's just shoving that fact deep into denial land. Making big decisions can happen later. Right now his life is just fine as is.
But it's after 9/11, and suddenly Somalian refugees are pouring into his small town as part of a secondary migration. Tom's fairly easy going about that too--helping out the odd lost student in the hall when his conscience tells him he should, and asking a new student who wears a genuine Manchester United jersey to school if he wants to join the soccer team. Things start to get a bit more intense for Tom after that. He makes a questionable choice or two, and suddenly he's thrust right into the middle of--well, everything. He befriends the new star of the soccer team, but Saeed's English has major limitations, and Tom doesn't really understand either his Muslim religion or culture, though he does eventually begin to make a real effort to do so. Just as things seem to have leveled off, though, Saeed himself becomes the center of one controversy and a larger problem erupts in the town itself, one which pits neighbor against neighbor and prompts a white supremacist group to target their once small-and-sleepy town.
I liked this book because it had realistic characters in true-to-life situations, dealing with real problems in today's world. It had a good message without being preachy, and makes readers--along with Tom--question their responsibility for and place in society without beating them over the head with it. I could definitely see this book as an excellent springboard to talking to teens about many of the larger issues facing us all in today's world, and am very interested in seeing what Maria Padian comes up with next.
Posted February 20, 2013
Any book that has sports in it is not my type of read. But a tagline comparing a book to the movie The Blind Side – which, in my opinion, was an absolutely brilliant movie – definitely gets my attention. I’m glad I gave Out of Nowhere a chance. It took me most of the weekend to finish reading it, even had me up in the middle of the night reading a couple more chapters, but it was worth every second. This book is definitely going on my Best Books of 2013 list!
There is more sport in this book than I would’ve liked to read, but I’ll admit it was written so well it felt as though I was in the centre of all the action. The author managed to capture the atmosphere in the crowd and the anxiety and excitement of the soccer players perfectly; I couldn’t help cheering loudly for each game they won and feeling utterly sad about the ones they lost. I felt every emotion the players felt. That said, this book is not entirely focused on the sport alone. It is a heart-warming tale encompassing the struggles and challenges of the everyday lives of a handful of individual characters learning, through trial and error, to accept those who are different; and the main character, Tom, learning some valuable life lessons in the process. It deals with – among other - diversity, adversity, faith, and acceptance of the unknown.
This story, thank goodness, isn’t an exact reproduction of the movie The Blind Side, but it does hold a few similarities to it in showing how differently people deal with, and attempt to cross (or not), cultural boundaries. The author efficiently and sensitively portrays both perspectives by showing the pros and cons of accepting refugees from a war zone, into a small town already under the strain of an influx of foreigners. The characters are realistic and I couldn’t help feeling emotionally invested in them. The author shares a lot of interesting background information about Somalis and the Muslim culture in an effort to have the reader better understand these characters in this book. It was clear she did her research really well.
Out of Nowhere is one of those books I’ll be thinking about months from now, and which I’ll definitely get as a gift for family and friends. It’s not a story you read, but rather one you experience. There were a lot of times I cried while reading this book, not only because of heart-wrenching moments in the story, but also because how some of the main character’s best intentions, didn’t turn out so well and resulted in far-reaching consequences for some of the other characters. It showed me again how bad things happen to good people, but also how life balances this out with good things happening to good people when least expected. This is a multi-layered story focusing on a lot of different themes, and even though the team sport soccer is at the centre of it all, I wouldn’t have written it differently if I were in the author’s shoes.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Posted February 19, 2013
(Source: review request by publisher - Random House Children's Books via Netgalley. Thanks to Random House Children's Books, and Netgalley.)
Tom plays soccer, and likes to ignore his college applications instead of filling them in.
The small town where Tom lives has a large Somali immigrant population, and not everyone is happy about it. Race doesn’t matter to Tom though, and he is happy to help a boy called Saeed make it onto the soccer team.
After a practical joke gone wrong, Tom find himself landed with 100 hours of community service, and joins a programme that helps Somali kids get their homework done. Whilst helping out, Tom makes friends with Somali kids, and takes his community service further than expected of him when he starts to help kids with things other than school work.
Tom encounters racism towards the Somali people, and tries to smooth things over, but is annoyed when the mayor then takes a stand by writing a piece in the paper saying that they don’t want any more Somali immigrants coming to the town because they can’t afford them.
Are the Somali’s really that bad? Do they deserve to be treated this way? And who will stand up for them?
I received an invitation to read this book on Netgalley, and I’ll admit that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it or not. I can’t really say that I found the blurb all that interesting.
This book had two themes – the racism, and soccer/football, although the two were also intermingled.
I liked how Tom was so open, and didn’t really see people as different colours. To him Saeed was a good football player first, and a Somali second. He didn’t see why people had a problem with Saeed being Somali rather than American, and he always defended the Somali’s when it was needed.
I understood the mayors arguments – I can see why people might be annoyed if they felt that people were coming into the town and taking things that they hadn’t earned – such as homes and benefits, whilst the people who had lived in the town all their lives were not given the same treatment. But at the same time the Somali people needed somewhere to live, and bullying on a one-to-one level was not going to solve the immigration problems.
There were some discussions with regard to religion and religious beliefs, and also about ages and green cards, and other issues the Somali kids had, as well as some romantic issues for Tom.
The storyline wasn’t obvious, and I wasn’t able to guess what would happen at the end.
Overall; not really my kind of thing, but has a solid storyline, and covers quite a lot of difficult issues.
6 out of 10.
Posted February 12, 2013
The Low Down: Small towns, small minds; isn’t that how the saying goes? Enniston, Maine’s population has made a complete 180 from being in “the coldest, whitest state in America” to one that is playing host to a large influx of Somali Muslims escaping personal and political strife in Africa. Tom Bouchard feels badly for the kids that are dumped in his high school, speaking no English and having to navigate the hallways, classrooms, simmering acrimony and a town that would prefer they disappear altogether.
Saeed shows up to class one day wearing a Manchester United football jersey, and Tom finds out that Saeed has played soccer all his life. Inviting him to come and check out the soccer team, soon there are new Somali players on the team. Fortunately, most of the players are thinking more about beating their arch-rival, Maquoit High School, than the change in make-up of their team. Saeed and the other Somalis take the Chamberlain High School team to unheard of new heights. Dizzying, post-season heights.
But something is bubbling beneath the surface in just about everyone in town. For Tom, it’s his hatred for Marquoit and their rich-kid ways; for the mayor of Enniston, it’s the changing makeup of the town’s population. Both act on their impulses, with Tom having to do community service and the mayor having to now defend her town and townspeople from the threat of “help” by a group of white supremacists. Then another impromptu action causes pain in the very family that Tom wants to help. Can someone ever truly understand the "why" of other cultures?
Best Thang ‘Bout It: The subject matter is superb and is presented in a sensitive way. I have yet to read another Young Adult book concerned with the plight of refugees and what happens on a local level when there’s a wave of immigrants into a community, so this is a very refreshing and timely topic. It’s hard on both sides. And particularly today, when there’s a fear of Islam, it makes for an uneasy mixture. This story does a good job of not only describing the hopes and fears of the immigrants, but also the cultural ways and differences that are more than likely the reason the locals can be fearful and resentful.
I’m Cranky Because: Though the story was good and there were many dramatic conflicts, nothing felt surprising. The narrative stayed pretty much in the middle, excitement-wise, and many of the struggles and action were telegraphed in advance. The characters felt like players throughout the story instead of becoming people that I cared about, making it feel a bit clinical.
The Bottom Line: This book is a solid read with very helpful and insightful look at immigrants generally and Muslims in particular. Don’t think that it will feel like a lecture, because it certainly doesn’t come across that way. There’s plenty of goings-on to keep the reader interested.
Out of Nowhere by Maria Padian was published today by Knopf Books for Young Readers. A free copy of this book was given to Ink and Page in return for an honest review. Big thanks to NetGalley and the Publisher.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction Contemporary
Ages: 14 and up
You Might Want to Know: There is profanity, underage drinking and drugs