Amal is a young Pakistani girl, and she is happy. She loves school, she enjoys her family and helping out at home, and she has high hopes for her future as a teacher. School is put on hold when she has to stay home to help out after the birth of a new baby, but the pause is meant to be temporary. It becomes more permanent when, after a brief flare of temper directed at the wrong man in the market, Amal is pressed into servitude at the home of her village's corrupt landlord to pay off her debt.
Hopeless, helpless, and lonely, Amal sees the future she dreamed of slipping away. Life in the Khan house is fearful and filled with small deceits, but Amal also finds friendship in some of the others who work there. But as she learns more about the Khans, she must make difficult decisions that could have far-reaching affects on herself, her new friends, and all of the people in her village.
This was such a wonderful middle grade book, introducing young readers to the life of a girl in Pakistan, with all its hopes and limitations. While Amal doesn't face the same dangers as Malala Youszafzai (who the author briefly discusses in a lovely note at the end), she still has to learn to stand up for herself and others, and find her own bravery, at a young age.
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“A moving novel about a young Pakistani girl forced into indentured servitude; Amal Unbound beautifully communicates the power of hope and positive change that can come from struggle.” – Seira Wilson, Amazon Editor
“Saeed’s timely and stirring middle-grade debut is a celebration of resistance and justice.”–Kirkus Reviews, starred review
The compelling story of a girl’s fight to regain her life and dreams after being forced into indentured servitude.
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.