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Saharan Boy
By Richard
Bellamy

Reviewed by Adam Labriny 3-15-2003

Saharan Boy is a challenging novel geared toward 13-16 year olds. Saharan Boy is about a boy named Hamid Mbarka and his mom, Fatima, his dad, Hassan, his brother Ali and his sister, Ayeesha.

The novel takes place in Morocco in the 1980's. At the beginning of the story, the family lives in the city of Rasheedia. Hamid thought his life was pretty good. But when his father gets called to war everything changes.  Hassan is sent to the Sahara to fight the Polisario. He is kidnapped and the military leaders believe he is dead.  The family is left with no source of income.  When Fatima can't pay rent, the greedy landlord comes and takes their little house away.  They are forced to move in with some relatives in Fez. When they get to Fez, they discover that their new home is in a shantytown.  They also learn that finding work is very hard.  Hamid, his brother and sister, his mom, his aunt and his uncle did any job they could just to earn the slightest amount of money. Then his sister got fatally sick. His pretty good life had turned into a difficult struggle for existence.

Then Hamid got an idea.  He decided to go back to the military base in Rasheedia to check on the status of his father and see if he had returned. While his mom was out working, Hamid left his younger brother in charge of his sister and set out on his journey to Rasheedia.  He hitchhikes to a town in the middle of nowhere, and soon realizes the man who picked him up is about to betray him.  While Hamid is snoozing the car stops.  The driver is telling a policeman that he found a wanted member of a gang. Hamid manages to escape and runs off in a direction he hopes is toward the Atlas Mountains.  

Many things happen on Hamid's journey to Rasheedia. I don't want to give away the whole story, but if you want to know how the rest of the story goes, I suggest you read the book. However, you should know that it is harsh reading. There is nothing happy about this story, and if you require happy endings this is not for you.

I loved the book because it talks a lot about the Moroccan culture. But I was disappointed in the ending because I felt like I was left hanging. Hamid's problems never got solved and his life was still horrible. That sort-of aggravated me.  Maybe the author was trying to make the reader feel like Hamid, never knowing what was coming next in his life. However…   I'm waiting for the sequel.

Rating on a scale of 1 to 10: 8


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