I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
Subhi is a refugee. Born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of a distant homeland, Subhi has only ever known life behind the fences. But his world is far bigger than that—every night, the magical Night Sea from his mother's stories brings him gifts, the faraway whales sing to him, and the birds tell their stories. And as he grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of his containment. The most vivid story of all, however, is the one that arrives one night in the form of Jimmie—a scruffy, impatient girl who appears on the other side of the wire fence and brings with her a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it herself, she relies on Subhi to unravel her family's love songs and tragedies. Subhi and Jimmie might both find comfort—and maybe even freedom—as their tales unfold. But not until each has been braver than ever before.
This was such a sad book and it was made even worse by the fact that this stuff really happens. This is the story of Subhi. He was born in a refugee camp and has grown up there. I think he's roughly ten years old and he has no idea what life is like on the Outside. Basically, him and everyone else in the refugee camp are waiting for someone to tell them that they can live on the Outside. All of the families have their own stories and their own heartaches. He soaks up the stories and memories that the adults tell him because he doesn't know anything else. I loved his imagination and his sweet innocence. The conditions that are described are awful, but he really tries to make the best of everything. I loved when he was talking about the "pebbles of happy." It was an interesting choice to make the narrator o such an awful experience the voice of a child. It takes away some of the sadness because the child is just so innocent.
So why didn't I love this book more? I think it was the character of Jimmie. I didn't feel like her character was developed enough and I thought her chapters were a little flat. I didn't know much about her dad or what he did for a living or anything about her brother. I also didn't really get why she kept sneaking into the refugee camp. I just didn't know enough about her to know her motivations.
This book had its moments of sweetness and its moments of sadness and it really shined a light on a situation that doesn't usually get much attention. It was a good book, just not as good as it could have been.
Buy/Borrow/Skip: Borrow this one.