Allan Stratton’s YA novel Borderline wouldn’t necessarily be something I’d pick up on my own, but I am trying to read more ‘boy’ books, especially those that might appeal to reluctant readers. I’ve inherited a class this semester and the majority of them are boys and many of them wouldn’t exactly put reading at the top of their to-do lists. I always think the key to reading success is to find just one book that they like. Borderline could be that book for someone.
Sami Sabiri is almost sixteen. He’s a pretty average teenager; he lives in an American suburb, crosses swords with his strict father, and tries to stay out of the way of bullies at the expensive private school he attends. He’s also Muslim.
At first, Borderline doesn’t seem like anything more than the pretty standard YA fare. Sami is likeable and relatable and his life is just ‘other’ enough to be intriguing. The fact that he is Iranian offers plenty of opportunities to discuss today’s headlines, too, because suddenly Sami finds himself in the middle of an FBI investigation.
The agents grill me to a crisp. Questions about Dad, his work, who he knows, what he does. I hardly hear a word….”We’re Americans,” I blurt out. “Mom and Dad – you can’t put them on a plane. You can’t send them off to be tortured.”
Sami’s journey to discover the truth about his father’s supposed terrorist activities is also a journey of self-discovery. Suddenly he has a reason to stand up and be counted. As his loyalty to his father wavers, he finds hidden reserves of strength and courage. If the resolution is, perhaps, a little too convenient, it won’t really matter to the majority of young readers. Sami is a character worth rooting for.
As to whether my reluctant readers would like this book – I think they would. The writing is accessible with a minimum of flowery prose. It’s pretty much straight-up plot and I think most of the boys in my current class would enjoy it.