Thursday, March 10, 2011

Teen/YA Review: Thunder Over Kandahar

In an odd coincidence, I began listening to Thunder Over Kandahar by Sharon E. McKay (which happened to be the next audio in my stack) at the same time that I was reading Stones Into Schools by Greg Mortenson, a nonfiction book about helping to build schools for girls in remote areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.   Thunder Over Kandahar covers some of the same ground, only from the perspective of teen/YA fiction.  It was a happy coincidence, and each book helped to increase my enjoyment of the other.  This is a fabulous novel, filled with action, adventure, and the warmth of friendship.

Fourteen-year old Yasmine has grown up in England, living the life of any British schoolgirl.  Her whole world changes when her parents decide to return to their homeland, Afghanistan, to add their support to efforts to rebuild the war-torn country.  She is plunged into an unfamiliar world filled with rules and restrictions, where women have few rights or freedoms.  When her family moves to a remote village, she meets Tamanna, a girl her own age with whom she feels an immediate connection.

Tamanna’s world is strange to Yasmine.  She has grown up surrounded by war and the threat of the Taliban, and is absolutely entranced by Yasmine and her kind, educated parents.  The girls are thrilled when an American group builds a new school in their village that will be open to both boys and girls (see the overlap?). 

Things go terribly wrong, though, when the Taliban come to town.  Yasmine’s family is targeted for their Western ways, and Tamanna is promised to an older man in an arranged marriage.  Things get bad enough that the girls decide they must flee, but it is a long, dangerous journey through the Taliban-infested mountains.

There is non-stop action in this novel, much of it violent, but the main theme woven throughout is the strength of the girls’ friendship and what they are willing to do to protect each other. Thunder Over Kandahar deals honestly with the realities of war, including violence and death, but in a thoughtful and thought-provoking way.  I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this audio book that transported me to a completely foreign place, populated with familiar emotions. 

264 pages, Annick Press
I listened to the audio book, produced by Listening Library/Random House Audio.

Where Are You Reading 2011:  Although the book takes place in multiple locations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I added my pin to Kandahar, which is near the girls' village.

Listen to an excerpt:

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