AUTHOR: Deborah Ellis
PUBLISHER: Pajama Press
PUBLICATION DATE: April 1, 2014
SOURCE: publisher’s ARC
GENRE: historical fiction
GIVE IT TO: HS, adults
SUMMARY: Fifteen-year old Farrin lives in Tehran, Iran in 1988. The daughter of an affluent family, Farrin attends a prestigious school for gifted girls. She gets good grades, but her family’s political activities force her to maintain a low profile. She does not have friends until one day, she meets a new girl at school. Sadira is outspoken, fun, and courageous, and the two girls become fast friends. It isn’t long before their friendship becomes a romantic relationship, which is illegal in Iran and could get both of them executed.
REVIEW: I was very young when the Iranian Revolution occurred and knew little of Ayatollah Khomeini and his Revolutionary Guard (IRGC). I do remember brief bits of news coverage of Ayatollah, and I’ll never forget my mom’s bright yellow t-shirt that read “Ayatollah is an Assahola.” (Who knew my sweet Mama was so political?!) While I’ve read a few books about women’s rights under the Taliban, this is the first one I’ve read about civil rights violations in Iran.
It took me a little bit to really get “into” this story, but once Farrin and Sadira’s relationship turned romantic, I could not put it down. I knew the girls would ultimately be arrested for their homosexuality (it’s right there in the blurb), and that happens pretty quickly once the girls decide they love each other. After that, the action picks up considerably as the girls try to figure out a way to be together but ultimately get themselves arrested instead.
This story is pretty short, but the last 75 pages really pack a punch. I loved the ending best of all, especially since I really had no idea whether Farrin and Sadira would get away or be killed. It’s excellent and kept me guessing, all the way to the end.
I especially love the Author’s Note at the end, which gives a brief history of Iran’s political turmoil and the persecution of homosexuals that still exists today in over 70 countries, including Iran. As I mentioned, I was so young when all this happened, I was really curious about the history by the end. Ellis also discusses the continued persecution of gays worldwide in the Author’s Note. This wasn’t a surprise to me, but I was surprised to read that they can be executed for it in some places. Wow.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Beautifully-written and fast-paced, this short historical novel kept me guessing right up to the last pages.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: This novel just feels like an adult novel. There is no specific content I worry about, but is just feels too mature for middle school.
READALIKES: A Thousand Splendid Suns (Hosseini); My Forbidden Face (Latifa); I Am Malala (Yousefzai)
- Overall: 4/5
- Creativity: 5/5
- Characters: 5/5
- Engrossing: 4/5–first half a little slow
- Writing: 5/5
- Appeal to teens: 4/5–may need some historical context since today’s teens were not alive in the 1980s
- Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
- Language: none
- Sexuality: mild; homosexuality (limited to hand-holding and a few chaste kisses)
- Violence: medium; execution by bullet and hanging; mistreatment of prisoners; severe civil rights violations
- Drugs/Alcohol: mild; parents drink wine at parties