New Book Review: Refugee by Alan Gratz

Hey all, it’s Sarah!

This novel found its way into my bags from BEA. When I first uncovered it, I had no idea where it came from or what it was about. I anticipated a lame sci-fi novel, but what I actually found was much better! This book is important for today’s society and will help tweens understand tough issues that have occurred throughout history.


This novel presents three perspectives, Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud. Josef is a Jew fleeing Germany during the beginning of the Holocaust. During the late 1990s, Isabel is fleeing Cuba’s constricting government to go to America. Modern day, 2015, Mahmoud is leaving Syria for Germany. These three stories are connected by more than just their refugee experience. Readers explore the historical climate during each of these three periods and learn the differences and similarities that occur throughout time.

Run down of each character’s storyline:
Josef’s father has been exiled from Germany after being released from a concentration camp, at the beginning of World War II. Josef and his family flee to Cuba on a ship. However, when the ship attempts to dock, the Cubans do not want the Jews to enter their country. Josef, his family, and others on the ship are faced with the uncertainty of their fate.

Isabel and her family live in Cuba. The leader of their country is oppressive, yet the family holds out hope for their country, eventually. Isabel’s father protests the leader and is considered a criminal, as a result. The family is given an opportunity to use a handmade raft/boat to sail to Florida. The distance between the two countries, but will Isabel and her loved ones be able to find a new safe home.

Mahmoud is living in a world where bombs drop unexpectedly from the sky and bullies commit violent acts against those they deem unworthy. Mahmoud’s family takes the journey to Germany, one of the few nations accepting refugees. There are many countries and obstacles Mahmoud’s family will have to overcome to make it to safety.

This book was difficult, but important. It covers pieces of history and stories in history that do not typically receive the attention they deserve. Gratz is able to clearly connect the issues of today to those of the past. I felt invested in all of the characters. This novel will begin the conversation about helping those in need for younger readers.

I want to keep this book, but I know that it is important for me to pass this book on. I plan on spreading the buzz surrounding this book and recommended to the young readers I meet. I will probably buy this book, which I rarely do.


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