Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Scholastic (4th May 2017)
Michael is drawn to his new classmate Mina, but they're on opposite sides of an issue that's tearing their town apart. His parents are part of an anti-immigration group, while her family have fled their besieged home in Afghanistan. As tensions rise, lines are drawn and both must decide what they want their world to look like, no matter the cost.
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Similar to The Hate U Give (review here) this book, this story, the characters and the issues addressed in this book is hugely relevant to this current social climate. While it comes dressed as a love story between two teens on opposite sides of one issue, for me at least, it was less about that and more about individual voices, about opinions and clashes - the bigger picture in general and I really appreciate that about this book.
It could have easily turned into a very YA, romance orientated book given the two main characters slowly and sweetly fall for each other, but the main focus wasn’t that and instead it was the conflict behind why these two, to the community and world at large, couldn’t be together. Having previously picked up (but not finished) a book from author Randa Abdel-Fattah’s, “Does My Head Look Big In This”, I was familiar with her writing style and felt comforted by her choice of topics and backstory to use for her new book, The Lines We Cross.
I enjoyed this book, whilst simultaneously feeling angry - not at it, but because of the things the author managed to so accurately nail in regards to immigration and a person’s conscience. The main issue in the centre of this book is that of immigration and Islamophobia. Michael’s parents have formed a group, whereby they think there should be limitations on refugees that take residence in their country and in general and how they should behave once they arrive. The terrifying and anger-inducing thing I found about this element of the book, was how scarily true and common such ideologies are. By no means are Michael’s parent’s painted as these horrible racists and compassionate-less people - but instead they’re presented in a way that’s really reflective of our current society and real people who hold such views.
In the eyes of Michael’s Dad, if refugees can afford to pay people to smuggle them out of their country, then it should mean they have enough money to sustain their own lives elsewhere rather than coming as refugees to their country. The counter argument we get to see through this book, is that these refugees are fleeing from conflict, from war-torn countries, from untold horrors which the western media don’t show - they flee because their lives depend on it, and not as Michael’s Dad believes, for a better life. It’s life or death for these individuals, something portrayed so tragically through Mina’s character and all that her parents went through just to safely arrive in Australia.
His parents concern, and up until a certain point, Michael’s concern was that refugees are coming to their country, stealing their jobs, taking benefits, taking advantage of the system, just because they can, rather than because they need it. They didn’t fully deny that refugees need help and that they should all be turned away, they believed in helping, but only as much as a country can do or should do. They were good people - and this is important to me at least, because this book and story shows that such ideas, shaped through the media and lack of correct information, can seep into everyone, good and bad people - and can manifest in different ways. It would have again been easy for the author to paint Michael’s parents as satan’s spawn, spewing racists commentary and uneducated, illogical word-vomit who eventually would turn against Michael for his opposing views - but instead they’re shown as sensible parents who find a way to still love their son, and he love them in return, without anyone being disowned.
Through this central issue, the rest of the strands of the story unfold; issues about identity, your own personal beliefs, standing up for what you believe in and not following the crowd. With dual narration through Micheal’s point of view and Mina’s, we get to see the stark contrast in their ideologies and their beliefs, which made this engaging to read and really showed how the characters played off each other, shaped each other’s actions and eventually viewpoints. Though I did wish that Michael’s change and development, about his own views rather than those inherited by his parents, would have changed because of something that he experiences, rather than because of the romantic element, which got all of this started for Michael. Mina was a strong character for me; she’s been through a lot and still continues to, but she’s firm in her beliefs and not afraid to stand up for herself and those she loves.
I did also wish that there was more to the ending - while Michael and Mina’s relationship was sweet and slow, I felt like there was no conclusion to them by the end - the end felt really rushed and we don’t get to see what happens after. Does Mina’s parents find out about Michael? How do the two stay together despite their obstacles? Do they get their happy ending? Just a few more chapters would have really helped in rounding this story off - but otherwise it was a good and important read and I’d like to thank Scholastic for sending me a copy for review.