Hollow Fires

Little, Brown. May 2022. 416p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316282642.
Gr 9 Up–In this short-chaptered, dual-narrative exploration of the tragic confluence of Islamophobia and white supremacy, readers are privy to the diary entries of Safiya, a young second-gen high school journalist’s investigation into several hate crimes she thinks are connected: a cyberattack on the school newspaper, vandalism of her parents’ Indian food store, and what’s worse, a missing fellow high school student. Jawad, a 14-year-old child of Iraqi refugees is falsely accused of being a suicide bomber by a teacher after making a jetpack at the school’s makerspace and is now missing. Jawad’s chapters are brief attempts at directing Safiya towards him and through his thoughtful recollections, readers slowly discover his truth. Introducing each chapter are statements in the form of facts, truths, and lies; interwoven are news reports, court briefings, police statements, blog posts, book chapters, radio transcripts, and more. This page-turner is sophisticated and easy-to-digest, a difficult balance to achieve, but Ahmed is extremely adept at threading pieces of a murder mystery together within the greater context of how the media influences youth. The portrait of immigrant families, small business owners both, and the role that kindness plays in undoing the spectrum of hurt—from bullying to the adoption of Nietzsche-fueled white supremacy—perpetrated in a small-town setting makes this a must-read for patrons in libraries across the country.
VERDICT This impassioned ride toward the truth, based on a true story, will make readers think about the media bites they consume and white youth’s easy access to radicalization.

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