Title: Amal Unbound
Author: Aisha Saeed
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Release Date: May 8, 2018
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.
Amal had dreams of becoming a teacher in her small village in Pakistan. Her life changes when her mother has her fifth baby. Amal suddenly has to take responsibility for her younger sisters. She’s under a lot of stress, giving up her future and looking after her family. This leads to an incident with the son of the village’s landlord. As punishment for talking back to him, Amal is taken from her family to work as a servant. Amal has many enemies when she arrives at their home, separated from her family and friends. Then, Amal discovers some dangerous business that the family is involved in. Amal has to figure out how to save her village and her own future.
This was a tragic story with an uplifting ending. Amal was treated unfairly in many ways. Since she was the oldest child, she was expected to look after her younger sisters. She was also expected to stay home because she was a girl. When she had an incident with the son of a wealthy man, she was sent to work for them because she was lower class and required to pay off the debt for insulting him in public. Amal’s position in society set her up to fail at achieving her dreams.
Though Amal was treated unfairly, her story was not as tragic as it could have been. She ended up making friends at the home where she worked and being treated well by most of the people there. In reality, this probably wouldn’t have been the case. Even without a tragic ending, this story shows a life that many children in Western countries are probably not familiar with, so it is an important read.
Amal Unbound is a great middle grade story! I’m excited for the sequel to be published next month!
What to read next:
Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan
Once Upon an Eid edited by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed
Have you read Amal Unbound? What did you think of it?