Internment/ posted in: Book Review, Reading Internment by Samira Ahmed
on March 19, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult
Published by Atom
Setting: United States
Rebellions are built on hope.
Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.
With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp's Director and his guards.
Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.
I was really looking forward to reading this book. I preordered it as soon as I heard about it. I was interested in a book about Muslim internment from a Muslim author.
The book starts out well. She captures the fear and suspicion rampant in the main characters community. She makes a logical case for how the United States would start to round up Muslims. The early scene where the family is taken out of their house is very realistic and because of that it is very scary.
After they get to the internment camp though, the whole story starts to fall apart. I think a lot of the problem in my reading of this is that this is a YA book that is trying to celebrate the power of young people to make a difference. I understand that because of the category it is going to be focused more on action than character development but these characters are particularly weak. The main character:
- Has a boyfriend who she loves so very, very much that she can’t think about anything else
- Except when she is super angry and has ALL THE FEELINGS and is angry at everyone
- Somehow she is only one in the camp who comes up with ideas to do something
YA books can tell stories of teenage bravery well. The Hunger Games comes to mind. This one just doesn’t ever come together.
It really annoyed me that this book painted all the Muslim adults as passive and weak and unwilling to protest. They were just sitting around waiting to be rallied to action by a teenager? (I decided to read that as the self-centeredness of a child who couldn’t see what was going on around her. I’m sure that is not the reading that the author meant but it kept me from hissing at the page when I was reading.)
The villain of the story is an absolute joke. He reads like a cartoon character. He is the director of the camp and he stomps around and threatens people until his face turns colors. Apparently just the sight of the main character makes him sputter and rage and be unable to form coherent thoughts. In reality the director of a camp like this would more likely be a stone-cold sadist and/or a very efficient bureaucrat who wouldn’t be the least bit flustered by a whiny teenager.
***SPOILERS *** For all his rage every time he sees her he never really does anything about her. The nastiest he gets is hitting her. He hides her parents from her for a bit but he gives them back almost immediately when he is confronted. Also there is almost unlimited surveillance but he never seems to notice any of the guards helping her all the time? It is explained by the fact that he trusts the guards. Yeah, not buying it.
I did like the fact that people protesting outside the camp and acting as observers of what was going on inside the camp was a big part of the story. I think that in these scenarios that will be a major part of the resistance. I did like some of the resistance ideas from inside the camp, like fasting to protest in front of visitors as well.
Overall, I think this was a wasted opportunity to tell a really important story. If you want to read a book on a similar subject that I think did a great job with the storyline, pick up Ink.
This book was scarily prescient when it was published a few years ago. It was just rereleased because events in the U.S. seem to be moving along just like she predicted.