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“Borderline” by Allan Stratton. First published 2010 by HarperTeen.
A fascinating and action-packed teen novel, “Borderline by Allan Stratton is told from the point of view of Muslim-American teenage boy Sami Sabiri.
Born in the USA to Iranian parents, Sami is a typical teen who is just trying to fit in. His parents value education and the Muslim religion, while Sami often finds some of their Islamic home culture not so easy to fit in with his all-American surroundings (such as trying to do his midday prayers at school). However, he seems to be doing an admirable job of respecting his Iranian cultural heritage while also dealing with everyday issues common to American teens.
At the start of this teen book, Sami’s differences begin to make him a target for bullying at school. However, this problem pales by comparison when Sami suspects his father of lying about something to him and his mother. Can he really trust his father? Just when he is beginning to think everything could work out OK, his family’s world gets turned upside down and it becomes evident that they have gotten into something really big, and not in a good way.
Is Sami’s father really the loving, gentle yet firm man he seems to be? Or is there a more sinister side to him? Is it in Sami’s power to save his father, and if so, would he want to do so? And what is his father’s secret, anyway?
The pressures keep piling onto Sami throughout this action-packed book. Trying to walk the line of what he believes, caught between two very different ways of looking at things, Sami exemplifies the title of this book: “Borderline”.
The bigger picture – important questions posed
Author Allan Stratton addresses a much bigger picture than simply what happens to Sami and his family. He deals with questions such as: What is the effect on someone’s family when they are accused of a crime? And is it possible for bystanders to be ensnared by laws designed to protect citizens from terrorism? And finally, how do we perceive those with different religions or cultural backgrounds to our own?
The author’s research
It is evident both from reading this young adult novel and from the acknowledgments page that Allan Stratton has made every effort to research the US Muslim community and also the US (and international) laws relevant to the plot. This background information is expertly woven into the plot for the reader’s benefit and makes the book an eye-opener.
Allan Stratton included sources from the legal fields in both the US and Canada; a press attaché to an American embassy who had worked during a hostage crisis; and a national security reporter, to name just a few. This research imparts plenty of credibility to the plot of this captivating and original young adult book.
Who will enjoy this book?
Teens of all ages will find “Borderline” to be a compelling and thought-provoking read while still enjoying all the fast paced action of this novel. In fact, many adults will find this book to be a gripping eye-opener too!
This teen novel will also resonate with those who relate to the theme of not-always-straightforward father-son relationships. Note that the absence of a strong female lead (or indeed, any major female character) other than Sami’s mother may make some teen girls less likely to identify with this book. However, this is a minor point, because the cross-cultural angle and the thought-provoking ethical questions posed in this book ultimately create a memorable read for both genders.