by Marina Budhos

Published by Wendy Lamb Books / Random House, 2016
265 pages
ISBN: 978–0–553–53418–4)

Age 13 and older

Watched by Marina Budhos

When Naeem is caught shoplifting, it further jeopardizes his already tenuous hope of graduating high school. Then he’s offered a deal by police: spy on other Muslims in New York City and he won’t be charged. In fact, they’ll pay him for information. It could even become a real job. Naeem is both enticed and repulsed by the offer. He wants to help his family, and the cops make him feel like he’s special, but he hates the idea of spying, and he hates that he doesn’t think he has a choice. When Naeem encounters Ibrahim, a boy he hasn’t seen in awhile, he realizes Ibrahim fits the officers’ “lone wolf” profile: he’s angry, isolated, and has been reading radical Islamic web sites. Naeem reluctantly reports him then becomes more and more uncomfortable as another operative steps in and further fuels Ibrahim’s anger. Isn’t this entrapment? Naeem feels trapped, too, in this taut, timely novel that addresses complex realities, from Islamophobia and police coercion to radicals who prey on Muslim youth feeling disillusioned, disconnected, and hopeless. Details of Naeem’s daily life, his worries about school, his relationship with family members, friends, and others within and beyond the diverse Muslim community, ground this riveting work in even greater poignancy and realism, while the author’s note provides background information on the truths behind this work of fiction. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center