Senzai, N.H. (2014). Saving Kabul Corner. New York: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Twelve-year old Ariana comes from a family of Afghan immigrants, but recently her life has been turned upside down. Her annoyingly perfect cousin Laila has recently arrived from Afghanistan, which means Ari has to share her room. She can't wait to move into their new house, but when a rival grocery store opens up in the same plaza, run by the very same Ghilazi family that feuded with her own in Afghanistan, life starts to get hard. When both groceries are the victims of terrible crimes, Ari realizes she must band together with Laila, her best friend Mariam, and Wali, the son of the Ghilazi's, to figure out who's up to no good.
What makes this book stand out is the fact that instead of being a token non-white character negotiating a white world, Ariana's entire world is essentially non-white. Her best friend Mariam is an Afghan refugee, and their community is made up of other Afghans living in Fremont, CA. Yet, even the supporting characters represent a remarkable, yet wholly credible, depth of diversity, representing Chinese, Korean, Indian and Mexican small business owners. Senzai is to be commended for creating a wholly believable, entertaining story that manages to combine mystery with details about Pukhtun culture, Afghan history, and current events.
These reviews are drawn from my personal reading as well as from unpublished galleys available through NetGalley.com, and advanced reader copies. I receive no compensation for these reviews.