Title: Amal Unbound
Author: Aisha Saeed
Genre: Middle Grade/Juvenile Fiction
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group
Released: May 2018
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, Audiobook, Kindle
Pages: 240 (hardcover)
Source: I borrowed a copy from Abu Dhabi Children’s Library
Purchase: Amazon | GoodReads | Penguin Random House
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.
“Forget my place? Every day I woke up without the scent of my mother’s breakfast wafting through the air. Every day I woke to deafening silence instead of my sisters’ laughter and shrieks. Every day I remembered everything I lost. I realized now that as kind as Nasreen Baji could be to me, she could never understand my position.”
– Amal Unbound, Aisha Saeed
Twelve-year-old Amal was living her life as the eldest sister, taking care of her sisters when her mother delivered, attending school, playing with friends, and enjoying life as a young happy girl with dreams and aspirations of becoming a teacher. Frustrated by life’s unfairness and speaking up out of her right, things change and she finds herself in a position that she never expected to be in. Life as a servant in the Khan’s family was difficult, humiliating, and at times misunderstood. How does Amal come out of her captivity? What must she go through for her to change her life? The story brings up to this climax and the resolution is one of those bittersweet feelings.
If everyone decided nothing could change, nothing ever would. This quote from the book is the crux of the story and the driving point for Amal to take action to change her situation. This reminds me of the aayah in the Qur’an: “…Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves…” (Ar-Ra’d: 11) If you want your situation to change, you need to take the first step to changing the situation and things will unfold and unravel in life.
I loved how the author kept the reader immersed in the story through the vivid imagery and descriptive emotions. The characters were relatable and I could feel as if I was one among them. Initially though, I felt there were too many names to remember, but as the story progressed they fell in place. The pretty book cover didn’t make sense to me at the beginning, but after having read the book, I now understand the depth of the meaning.
A point to note: The author was inspired by Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist for female education, who was once shot for seeking education. The author hopes to shine light on the brave girls who are known and unknown to the world by standing up for their right whilst risking their lives.
Overall, an inspiring book about courage, bravery, family, and friends.
Have you read Amal Unbound? Let me know your thoughts in the comment 🙂