Peer Review by LZ07 (United States)

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Reading "Refugee" by Alan Gratz (Review for review!)

By: Riya

“You can live as a ghost, waiting for death to come, or you can dance.”

Alan Gratz sheds light on historical events while still managing to weave an enticing tale of 3 children seeking refuge. This historical fiction novel follows the stories of Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud through various time periods. Living in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, Josef needs to escape after the Nazis attack his Jewish family. Isabel is escaping the civil unrest in her home country of Cuba in 1994. Mahmoud is a boy in Aleppo, Syria, escaping the war in 2015. 

Although these kids seem to live entirely different, yet equally terrifying lives, they have the same goal: to survive their journey to seek refuge. I would whole-heartedly recommend this book to those who enjoy being at the edge of their seat wondering what will happen next. Refugee captures accurate images of historical events, so it is ideal for those who would like to delve into these moments in time. Although it is geared toward a younger audience of middle schoolers, I feel that even adults should read this book because of its impactful description of the lives of refugees.

"We're against whoever's dropping the bombs on us."

What I enjoyed most about this book was how you get attached to the characters. I felt like I was right there with Mahmoud when he's in a car getting shot at. Right next to Isabel in her leaky raft trying not to sink. Right there watching with dread as Josef's Star of David armband falls down in front of a Hitler Youth boy. Whenever a character was forced to overcome an obstacle in their journey, I was there rooting for them and hoping they would survive. I found the writing to be very emotional and you could really connect with the characters. Often, when there are multiple narrators, it gets difficult to understand each character's situation on a deeper level. Despite each narrator being in a wildly different environment, I still connected with them which is what I find admirable about the writing. However, the changes between the narrators are also the book's weakness since they seemed a bit abrupt occasionally. Sometimes, the cliffhangers made me want to skip to the next time it was, say, Isabel's turn to tell her story.

"Her foot tapped in time with the hidden cadence, and she realized with a thrill that she was finally hearing it."

What was also interesting to see was the way it all connected together and how certain ideas continued throughout the story. For Isabel, an aspiring musician, the theme of counting clave (a hidden beat in Cuban music) is consistently found throughout her journey to the United States. Additionally, the three stories all intertwine towards the end even though it seems like Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are in wildly different worlds.

All in all, I found Refugee to be an emotional story that is full of ups and downs, twists and turns. It truly opens one's eyes and shows the difficulties so many people have faced and are still suffering. I think that Mahmoud's story was the most interesting and the one I was captivated by the most. His story is still relevant due to the ongoing Syrian war. His sacrifices and the fact that a child around my age knows exactly how to avoid artillery shells from experience is heartbreaking. I would like to thank my English teacher for recommending this book to me and I want to do the same and tell you that this is a must-read. Refugee is definitely a novel that needs to be on your bookshelf. 

Word count: 605
I'd love any feedback you have.

Peer Review

The author of the review did a good job on writing a brief summary with enough information for the reader to know the plot. The way she described her feelings towards the book, and sometimes with specific examples, makes me want to rush to the nearest bookstore.

I think you should spend less time talking about how the switch in perspective is confusing because you're trying to encourage your readers to read the book in your review.

To make this review stronger, you could connect some of the quotes you used into your review. Maybe its just me, but it's kind of difficult to see the relationship between them.

Your review is really good overall, with great vocabulary and descriptions. With just a few tweaks, it could be even better!

Reviewer Comments

I like how you connected the plot(s) of the book to a current event! - that emphasizes the meaning and impact