I read this book on the OpenEbooks app, which I will make a post about later today. However, you can also find this book on Amazon!
Twelve-year-old Maria lives in the Bronx with her Lebanese mother who works two nursing jobs, often working 12 hours a day for six days a week. Maria keeps her worries to herself for the most part, but she has no friends in school and is always picked on by the “Barbies”. One day, when she is on her way to school, they trash her project and push her around. When her mom finds out, she gets a new job in the country and moves them both to a cottage. Maria first thinks that she will make no friends, but then she befriends the lonely son of the housekeeper. Then, she finds a mysterious map in the cottage where she lives, and she decides to solve the mystery behind the map and Captain Jean Murdefer.
This story won the Arab American Book Award this year, and I could see why as I read this book. Maria grew up with a mixture of cultures, and throughout the book, it was shown through words in Arabic. Besides that fact, the story was sweet even on its own. I enjoyed hearing about a girl and her mother having a close relationship, even though her mother worked long hours. Even while she and her friend Paulo try to solve the mystery, she still feels guilty for keeping the small secrets from her mother.
This story is one that I wish was out when I was 12, as it definitely would have been one of my favorites at the time. It is still very enjoyable now, but I would have loved it even more when I was twelve and struggling to find diverse books for my age level.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a realistic adventure novel with an Arab-American main character and a plot centered on themes of family and friendship.
Overall Rating: 5/5