When Stars Are Scattered – book review

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When Stars Are Scattered
Victoria Jamieson & Omar Mohamed
Graphic Novel
Realistic Fiction (based on true story)
* * * * * Stars (Amazing!)

Omar and his younger brother Hassan fled their village in Somalia when it was overrun by men with guns. They made their way, along with other refugees, to a camp in Kenya where they waited for years for something to happen – to find their mother who became separated from them when the attack began, for it to be safe for them to return to their village (war and violence continued to escalate and their village was wiped out completely), or to be resettled in another country. They are looked after by an older woman named Fatuma who treats them as if they are her own sons, and they get by on rations provided by the UN (United Nations), but they are often hungry and almost always restless and bored. Omar eventually attends school within the camp, though he struggles with the decision to go and leave Hassan alone/with Fatuma. Hassan is disabled (does not speak), and suffers from seizures that the doctors don’t know how to treat. Omar and some of his friends hope that being educated will help them have better choices once they leave the camp. Opportunities are slim, however, and even when Omar receives an interview for resettlement it is more than 4 years before he hears anything more about his chances. During that time he suffers anxiety, depression, boredom, frustration, anger over the uncertainty of his future and the lack of options available to him. Multiply that by thousands, because it is certain that ALL of the refugees feel these things.

Although Omar and Hassan’s story has a happy ending (read the authors’ notes at the end to find out more), many more refugees are stuck in camps without sufficient food, choices, or meaningful work. Refugees both in the camps and those that have been resettled face discrimination from people who object to their presence/existence and/or feel that it is a waste of resources to aid them. Perhaps there are better solutions, ways of handling refugees or the situations that create them, but Omar and Hassan’s story humanizes their experiences and readers will (hopefully) empathize with and be more understanding of what refugees have endured and have to endure.

Reviewed by YA Librarian