Review of Internment

by Samira Ahmed
High School    Little, Brown    304 pp.    g
3/19    978-0-316-52269-4    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-316-52266-3    $9.99

Xenophobic fear-mongering, book burnings, terrified families rounded up in the middle of the night to be thrown into internment camps — all painfully familiar elements of America’s past and present — descend upon Layla Amin’s near-future dystopian world like a drizzle that steadily becomes a torrent. Seventeen-year-old Layla watches as a racist and Islamophobic president emboldens a hateful regime that considers all Muslims to be threats. Ripped from her home and sent to a desert camp, Layla resists the appalling injustice, refusing to accept terror and imprisonment as “normal.” And she is not alone: other teens and even a few guards join Layla in plans to expose the camp and attain their freedom. But with fellow Muslims being beaten or disappearing to black-ops sites and a sadistic camp director prepared to destroy the resistance by any means, freedom may come at the cost of lives. The line between speculative fiction and contemporary realism has never been fuzzier, and Ahmed doesn’t so much balance on it as erase it, in an emotionally authentic, devastatingly intimate, and startlingly concrete portrait of democratic impotence, governmental oppression, and the mechanics that keep them in place.

From the March/April 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Anastasia M. Collins

Anastasia M. Collins is a children’s literature scholar and academic librarian. She holds an MS in library science and an MA in children’s literature from Simmons University and the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature.

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