On the surface, the protagonists of Alan Gratz’s Refugee have little in common. They live in different eras, different countries, and practice different religions. Yet when they are forced to flee their homes, they all become refugees.
Geared toward young readers but fast-paced and honest enough to keep young adults engaged, Gratz’s insightful novel offers little calm before the storm. Barely on the cusp of adolescence, our protagonists’ worlds are already crumbling at their feet. When a bomb destroys Mahmoud’s home in modern-day Syria, the crumbling is both literal and figurative. With no place to stay, his family embarks on a journey out of the Middle East and across Europe. For Josef, a youth in 1939, it is the rise of Nazism and the horrors of Dachau that shatter his preconceptions and force his family out of their home country. For Isabel, change comes when her family decides to flee the destitution of Castro’s Cuba for the promise of American shores, braving the 90 miles of treacherous sea between Havana and Miami in a makeshift boat.
A heart-wrenching escape story, a coming-of-age tale, a treatise on the hopes and traumas of refugees the world over—with the civil war in Syria still raging and immigration a hot-button issue across the world, Refugee could not be more timely.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Q&A with Alan Gratz for Refugee.