Review: Internment

Internment by Samira Ahmed

Title: Internment
Author: Samira Ahmed
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 386
Review copy: Purchased
Availability: On shelves now

Summary: Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.

With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.

Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.

Review: This book begins during a horrific time for Muslims in the U.S. A president has been elected who tweets his hatred of Muslims almost daily. Fake news abounds and refugees are being called rapists and criminals. The Secretary of War is an Islamophobe – and yes, that’s a cabinet seat we haven’t seen for a while in real life. It has a slightly different ring to it than Secretary of the Army or Secretary of Defense. Nazis have marched on DC and books are burning. There is so much wrong with the country and one of the crushing things is that so many people encouraged or allowed all of this.

Layla Amin and her family have watched things rapidly change around them. Muslims, much like the Jewish people in 1930s Germany, have begun to see their rights and freedoms stripped away one at a time. Layla just wants a normal life where she can be with her boyfriend without worrying about curfews and the unraveling of her world. Layla and her parents don’t see things the same way. They want to see the good in people. They still believe that they will be okay if they don’t make waves. They have hope and prayers, but Layla wants more than that to hold onto as more things are ripped away from them.

Samira Ahmed has crafted a story that is terrifying in its possibilities. Many of the issues in the book seem to have been lifted straight from our current newspapers. The story is all too realistic. It’s set just a bit in the future and it could certainly inspire some fear and heartache in readers. While there is hatred, bigotry, and violence against Muslims, there is also a lot of hope. Her parents are an excellent example of that and while the young people are frustrated by hope without action, they too have hope. One of the young people says that holding onto hope is hard work. This is quickly followed by a Rogue One quote, “Rebellions are built on hope.”  There are people of all ages who step up at times, but the majority of the heavy lifting in this book is done by the young people. It’s a powerful testament to the strength and courage of young people. I loved that aspect of the story. Youth are often underestimated. Here the youth don’t wait for leaders, they become leaders.

By taking them to an internment camp, Layla feels that the government has taken her voice and choice. Through the book, Layla discovers that this may not be entirely correct. As she meets other frustrated people, she learns and grows and finds her own way of being in this restrictive place. She also discovers the power of unity and finds ways to be heard.

This is partially a story of survival. It offers a glimpse into what some people are willing to do to survive. What people are willing to give up to survive can be astounding and not always in good ways. Ahmed also shows us what some people are willing to do for others.

This book is a warning, a message of hope, and a call to action. The cap on the cover says Resist and so does the entire book.

Recommendation: Get it now. This is a book that has much to say to us as we look to our future.