- Watched by Marina Budhos
Library ed. ISBN 978-0-553-53419-1 $20.99
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-553-53418-4 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-553-53420-7 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 7-10
Naeem’s not really a bad kid, just a garden variety screw-up who’s watching his grades slip during senior year, who would rather roam the streets than help out in his father’s shop, and who isn’t too sharp when it comes to judging his friends. An American-born teen of similar mindset could stay under the radar, but a Bangladeshi immigrant like Naeem is likelier to attract official attention, as he discovers when his buddy Ibrahim leaves him literally holding the bag with shoplifted shirts. The police make him an offer: spy on his Muslim peers, or land in a juvenile facility while his father’s green card gets revoked. Certainly the coercive element of the deal is repulsive, but Naeem initially revels in the drama of his new mission, going so far as to convince himself that he’s helping protect his family and neighbors. He even benefits from the discipline and from the near-paternal interest he receives from one of his police contacts. As he’s drawn into more complex assignments, though, he begins to realize how pernicious profiling can be and how little agency he has over sorting potentially dangerous suspects from quirky lost souls and outliers. There’s plenty of timely matter here to ponder or discuss, making this a strong recommendation for class reading and book clubs. It’s also a compelling coming-of-age story, and even readers who choose to downplay the current events threads will find Naeem’s strange path to reconnection with his family rewarding.