NetGalley Devours: An Infidel in Paradise by S.J. Laidlaw
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Description: Sixteen-year-old Emma is no stranger to moving. The daughter of a Canadian diplomat, her life has been a series of changing landscapes, cultures and friendships. But when her parents split up and she and her siblings are forced to move to Pakistan with her mother, her feelings of loss and culture shock are overwhelming. Add to that rising political tensions and her attraction to a local boy who has been promised to someone else, Emma’s life very quickly spirals out of control, putting herself and those she loves in mortal danger. [From the publisher]
Review: Ages 12 and up. I’ve always enjoyed books set in a place I’m unlikely to visit—-a pseudo-vacation, in a way. So I chose An Infidel in Paradise because it takes place in Pakistan, where Emma, the main character, has just moved. Emma’s mother is a busy and often disengaged diplomat, and her parents have recently separated, with her beloved father remaining in the Philippines at their family’s last post. Emma has lived all over the world, but she’s shattered by the changes in her family and the adjustments of living in a restrictive and sometimes hostile country.
The book’s not complicated, but it’s rich in details and brings to life the stark differences between the cultures (Emma is Canadian) in a way that will be appealing to teens because …it sneaks under the radar. You’ll learn what traditional Pakistanis wear, but because the girls go shopping; you’ll learn about arranged marriages, but through the eyes of the “hot” love interest. Laidlaw does a thorough job of introducing characters with different perspectives, from the wealthy Pakistani students who attend Emma’s school, to the poor children who collect trash outside the diplomatic compound and the servants who look after Emma’s family.
As a parent, this book reminded me of how unsettling and lonely the teen years can be, no matter where in the world you are. My heart ached for Emma for most of the book—-as she gets angry and says something she later regrets, as she pushes her friends away so she doesn’t have to risk losing them, as she misses her father but refuses to forgive him. She makes reckless but human decisions, but she loves and is loved genuinely, and the book comes full circle at the end as she regains her footing.
Middle-grade readers will like the casual language of the book, the teen-appropriate connection between Emma and Musa, and its quick pace. Adults will enjoy recommending it because of the cultural references and current events focus. A final note: the ending, though a bit dramatic for adults, is perfect for this genre.
I requested the book from the NetGalley catalog, and read on my iPad using the Bluefire Reader app.
If you would like to purchase An Infidel in Paradise you can do so at any of these locations:
– Review written by Susan Ruszala, NetGalley President