5.0 2
by Catherine Stine

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September 11, 2001

Two teenagers on opposite sides of the globe flee everything they know. In a world turned upside down by tragedy, they are refugees.

Sixteen-year-old Dawn runs away from her unhappy foster home in California and travels to New York City. Johar, an Afghani teenager, sees his world crumble before him. He flees his war-ravaged…  See more details below


September 11, 2001

Two teenagers on opposite sides of the globe flee everything they know. In a world turned upside down by tragedy, they are refugees.

Sixteen-year-old Dawn runs away from her unhappy foster home in California and travels to New York City. Johar, an Afghani teenager, sees his world crumble before him. He flees his war-ravaged village and the Taliban, and makes a dangerous trek to a refugee camp in Pakistan. Thanks to his knowledge of English, Johar finds a job at the camp assisting Louise, the Red Cross doctor—and Dawn’s foster mother. Through e-mails and phone calls, Dawn and Johar begin to share and protect each other’s secrets, fears, and dreams, and a remarkable bond forms that gives each of them hope and the courage to find a path home.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This earnest first novel follows the fate of two teens after Sept. 11, 2001. Sixteen-year-old Dawn, a talented flutist unhappily living in her third foster home in San Francisco, runs away to New York, arriving days before the terrorist attack. At the same time, Johar, a 15-year-old Afghani, flees his mud hut with his toddler niece for a refugee camp on the Pakistani border, rather than join the Taliban. The link between these two is Dawn's brusque but well-meaning foster mother, Louise, a Red Cross doctor who treats Johar's niece for pneumonia, and whose absence gave Dawn the opportunity to bolt. Contrivances abound-Johar, a hardscrabble shepherd, speaks English well enough to land a job as Louise's translator, and answers Louise's phone every time Dawn calls, allowing the two to strike up an intense friendship. Dawn effortlessly finds a place to live when she's introduced to a foreign correspondent who lets her crash in exchange for taking care of her cats. Unfortunate metaphors and similes pock the narrative (e.g., "his eyes had been hazel pools of warmth" and "her insides [were] getting cold and stiff, like hamburger meat in the freezer"). The story also occasionally pauses for lessons in Afghan political history. Yet the whole is better than the sum of its parts, as Dawn plays her flute to comfort 9/11 families and finds feelings for Louise she had buried, and Johar realizes he's not a coward just because he won't be bullied into joining the Taliban. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Dawn has run from a foster home in search of fame as a musician in New York City. Johar has traveled across Afghanistan with his niece in search of a Red Cross camp and refuge from Taliban soldiers looking to force him into their "army." Although Dawn and Johar are separated by thousands of miles, the events of September 11 cause their lives to intersect. Dawn's foster mother is the doctor at the camp where Johar finds a job acting as translator. When Dawn calls to talk to Louise, she makes an important connection to Johar. Each begins to trust the other slowly, revealing feelings they have kept hidden from others in their lives. The events of September 11 serve almost as a character in this novel that switches focus from Johar to Dawn in alternating chapters. Dawn's visit to New York is affected by the World Trade Center disaster. She takes her flute down to Ground Zero and begins to play as part of the healing process for herself and for the families of the victims. Johar's world is irrevocably changed as well. Instead of being accepted as a scholar and poet, he is now expected to become a soldier. Stine makes interesting connections between Dawn and Johar, each a refugee even before the events that led to war. Readers have the opportunity to learn more about the cultures of both Dawn and Johar. Although the book has an historic incident at its heart, this story is still about finding acceptance and belonging. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2005, Delacorte, 228p., and PLB Ages 15 to 18.
—Teri S. Lesesne
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-This novel is presented in parallel, first-person accounts (or story lines) that begin prior to September 11, 2001, and culminate some months later. Dawn is a runaway from California headed for New York City. She is resentful of her foster mother, a doctor with the Red Cross who is helping in a refugee camp near Pakistan. Johar, 15, lives in Afghanistan. Many of his relatives are dead. His aunt, a teacher, has disappeared. The Taliban has taken his brother, and Johar is left to care for his three-year-old cousin. He flees to escape the danger. The days tick by to September 11th, when Dawn arrives in New York, and everyday life in America shifts. The teens' lives unfold in alternating chapters, and the contrast between their daily experiences is huge. Dawn, a gifted musician, panhandles on the street and, later, plays her flute for mourners at ground zero. She lands a nice place to stay as she cat-sits for a traveling journalist and jams with a hunky rock star. In sharp contrast, Johar's life is dire, tough, and eerily credible. Torturing, mutilating, and killing are the rule. He makes it to the refugee camp where Dawn's mother is working. The teens develop an e-mail friendship, which seems too predetermined and artificial. Much of the plot, particularly the elements that revolve around Dawn, is just too implausible. The contrived ending is unrealistic and disappointing.-Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Affecting characterizations and situations bring warmth to this tale that weaves together September 11, 2001 in Manhattan and the recent history of Afghanistan. Gentle, poetry-loving Johar lives in Baghlan, a small village; he knits hats, herds sheep, and worries about the encroaching Taliban and his brother's connection with it. When their hut is burned and their illegal-teacher aunt arrested, Johar grabs his 3-year-old cousin and treks to a refugee camp in Pakistan. Meanwhile, Dawn runs away from a foster home in San Francisco to Manhattan, arriving just days before the terrorist attack. Her response to the tragedy involves playing flute for victims' families, which induces a thaw of her 11-year-long emotional shutdown. She finally connects with her foster mother-a Red Cross doctor who's hired Johar to help in the camp in Pakistan-and with Johar too. Stine's writing stumbles; it's overly expository and deliberate, and the prologue reveals too much. However, memorable characters and sudden rare beauty make it impossible not to care about Dawn and Johar's world. (author's note, Afghan-Persian glossary, Afghanistan update, Manhattan update) (Fiction. YA)

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Random House Children's Books
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Age Range:
12 Years

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San Francisco,

September 4, 2001

The marina-style house up ahead, with its crud-brown roof tiles and tiny concrete yard painted green to simulate grass, never failed to fill Dawn with dread. She'd forgotten an umbrella, so she gripped her jacket over her sandy hair as she broke into a weary jog. Rain pummeled against the jacket's nylon fabric. She swung the rusty gate closed, went inside the house, and kicked her dripping shoes onto the rubber floor mat. Victor's pipe tobacco smelled of overripe fruit. No doubt he was puttering around, but she couldn't bring herself to say hello. Victor had been ignoring her ever since he returned from his state research job. It was Dr. Louise who was always trying to connect.

Dawn trooped upstairs to her room, slammed the door, and locked it. Picking up her flute, she ran through some scales, then cracked opened the Vivaldi. Too mechanical, she thought, and put a book of Russian folk tunes on the stand instead. She gave herself to the song's mournful B-minor as the rain softened to a patter on the window and broke into rivulets, winding its way down the glass. Music was everything life was not--it loved her, and if she played to its moods, it would leap to her anytime she needed it. In a catharsis of sound, she could whisper a pianissimo and sob an adagio. Playing flute and being with her friend Jude were all Dawn cared about.

The muffled din of angry voices filtered into her room. She inched open the door. Her foster parents, Victor and Louise, were at it again. Lately they were always arguing. Dawn glanced at the wall clock. Why had Louise come back so early? It was only four. Dawn crept into the hall near their bedroom and listened.

"This couldn't be a worse time for you to go," Victor was saying. "I turn in my statistical research in October. Dawn's shenanigans will be a major distraction."

"What shenanigans?"

"Her nasty attitude, her cold stares. Having to drag her back from that faggy boy Jude's day after day."

"OK, OK, you've made your point. But it's never a good time, is it, Victor?" Louise shot back. "Look, I postponed my trip to the Afghani camps when Dawn arrived. Meanwhile, you ran off to the CDC in Atlanta for some conference completely unrelated to your research."

"Well, you managed to slip out to Texas the second I got back."

Louise gave a wry laugh. "Yes, for that very unnecessary tornado rescue!"

It was always like this: a debate over whose job was more important, who would get to travel, and who would have to stay with Dawn. Louise went on. "Look, it's not like this is something new. We've always traveled for our jobs."

"We used to have time for each other," murmured Victor. "We used to go to lectures."

"And museums," added Louise.

Victor's voice resumed its edge. "Now it's always Dawn this, Dawn that."

"It's not really about the trip, is it, Victor?" Dawn pictured Louise's owl eyes staring down his nearsighted ones.

"No. It's about Dawn," he admitted. "I said I'd do this foster thing to make you happy, but we both know it's been a disaster. I told you it would never work. Foster kids Dawn's age are set in their patterns. And you let her get away with murder."

"Well, I don't see you making any attempt."

"I'm not good at this. Take her with you," Victor said. "You said you'd consider that at some point."

There was a long pause. Dawn feared her ragged breaths were as loud as sandpaper on wood. Travel with Louise? Getting to see new countries would be cool, but if they were stuck in a plane together, they might just bring it down.

"Victor, she's got school, she's got flute practice, she's--"

"Louise, admit it," Victor cut in. "You can't stand to be around the girl for more than a few minutes."

"That's not it," Louise shouted. "It's my duty to see that she goes to school--"

"Your duty?"

"What's wrong with duty?"

"It's fine until it involves real human beings," Victor snapped. "I've washed my hands of it. The girl is a hazard. One minute she's all bottled up and the next minute she seems ready to explode. Send her back to Epiphany, where she belongs, before your sense of duty ruins us."

Dawn inhaled sharply and stumbled into the side table as she sneaked back to her room. Their fights had been awful, but she'd never heard it get this ugly.

Their door opened abruptly and thwacked against the wall. "Dawn, is that you?" Louise's strained voice called.

Dawn picked up her flute. Her fingers trembled as she tried to slip back into the ambiance of the Russian folk song. Her face felt flushed. She wouldn't let this get to her, but sometimes there were hot parts she couldn't freeze. Tears were for suckers. She hadn't cried for years and had probably forgotten how. "I'll never go back to that hellhole," she whispered. She didn't often allow herself to think about Epiphany House. When she did it was so hard. She remembered the excited and nervous departures, the defeated returns. It wrecked her and her friends, in stages. Dawn had paced back and forth in Little Mo's room just before Mo left. Dawn's heart just about broke with that last hug before her friend sped away in her new foster family's car. But it was worse when Mo returned, after not even lasting a month with her new family. Dawn tried her best to convince her that she'd find another family, but Mo's canceled-out eyes stared right through Dawn. Watching her friend slide her suitcase back under the threadbare mattress hurt so badly.

"Dawn?" Louise called from downstairs. Then, louder, "Dawn?"

Dawn unlocked the door and opened it a crack. "Yes?" she called.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Refugees 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not only does Stine draw fascinating details beautifully, the story is exciting. This is a great book dealing with an important subject.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago