Sami is a typical 13 year-old boy: he loves his friends, football, PlayStation and iPad. But a bombing in a mall changes his life. Sami and his family flee their comfortable home in Damascus to make the perilous and painful journey towards a new life in the U.K. Leaving everything behind, Sami discovers a world he’d never encountered – harsh, dangerous, but also at times unexpectedly kind and hopeful.
"...disrupts stereotypes while tugging at readers’ heartstrings... Compelling, informative, hopeful."KIRKUS STARRED REVIEW
“Dassu knits those realities into the story of the al-Hafez family, giving voice to countless refugees who didn't want to leave their homeland but were left no choice.” BOOKLIST STARRED REVIEW
“Carefully researched, wholly convincing, it’s a gripping, uncompromising debut, super-charged with the power of empathy.” THE GUARDIAN Featured in Books of the Month, Children’s Best New Novels
‘poignant and powerful… An impressive, thoughtful debut…’ Fiona Noble, The Bookseller Featured as One to Watch
‘Timely and honest, this is a story which every school should have in its library.’ Anna Mckerrow, BookTrust Featured New Best Books We Love
‘Written with a deep understanding and meticulous research into similar journeys this is a book that will not leave you for a very long time… Read this book – it’s needs to be in classrooms and on bookshelves everywhere – it will change you and stay with you.’ Tricia Adams, LOVEREADINGKIDS, Debut of the Month Read the full review here.
‘Boy, Everywhere is heartbreaking, beautiful, uplifting and devastating in equal measure and although it’s a work of fiction, it reads like a true account which is testament to the wonderful research and storytelling of A. M. Dassu. She chronicles the beauty and devastation, sights and sounds, friendships and relationships in stunning vivid detail, so much so that you honestly feel that you are living every moment alongside Sami.’ Lucy Georgeson, five star review, Reading Zone Read the full review here
‘This is such an important and timely novel and deserves attention. A. M. Dassu gives voice to the refugee experience in a powerful story which respects the difficult decisions that every family seeking refuge has to make. Boy, Everywhere would make a good Read Aloud text in Year 5 or Year 6 or it could be used for guided reading as discussions around the experiences in the story would break down stereotypes and build empathy. It also belongs in every primary and secondary school library. There have been quite a few recent releases focusing on the refugee experience but this one stands out.’ Laura Ovenden, Just Imagine Read the full review here
‘It’s a brave book, and an important one, but it’s also a great read and I think there’s nothing else like it for that age group. This is going to be on my list of top recommendations for 2020.’
Dawn Finch, children’s author and librarian. Trustee of CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) and chair of The Society of Author’s CWIG committee (Children’s Writers and Illustrators Group)
‘Sami is such a relatable character, the voice is perfect, and seeing their journey from his perspective really brings to life anything a child reading might have heard about refugees. This carefully researched and empathetic novel will, deservingly, be compared to Elizabeth Laird. I had my heart in my throat for so much of the story but I also smiled, a brilliantly crafted debut.’
Caroline Fielding CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) Youth Libraries Group London chair & National Exhibition Manager
‘Such a realistic story, Sami could be my son, daughter or any of their friends.’ Mayida Yord, Teacher in Damascus, Syria
‘It’s amazing. It’s like she was amongst us. It’s like she’s been living here. She knows how people think and react…’ Mohamad Ghabash, 12-year-old student in Damascus, Syria. His father is a surgeon and mother a teacher, like Sami’s.
‘From a boy that had it all at his home, to someone who was left out on the streets in Manchester, this book brings down to words what happened exactly to many people, victims of the war in Syria. Surprised by the number of realistic details this book has, I was full with emotions reading it. It marks the truth of our sad reality here in Syria, and most importantly shows the message we always wanted to blurt out but couldn’t, we aren’t happy we came to your land, we were forced to.
In the name of a person who has gone through half what Sami has gone through from bullying to hatred of us, I can affirm that the story told in this book is a hundred percent true, and there’s even been worse.
However, the presence of the good deeds in people helped a lot going through rough periods of time, the world needs more of them. I really like this book, with all its heart warming, dramatically realistic events that would definitely move something in you. I hope it gets the attention it deserves, we need it. <3’
Layla Jazairy, 15 year old student in Damascus, Syria
‘Rarely do we have insight about middle-class Syrians before they emigrated from the ensuing chaos that began in 2011. However, A. M. Dassu’s Boy Everywhere sensitively takes us through the trials that many faced when they were uprooted from a life many of us in the West can relate to. It puts us in the uncomfortable position of thinking what if this was my family? But more than that, the characters and friendships formed with Sami, our hero, tugs and connects us with a life we yearn to be restored to a semblance of what he had before. Endearing yet powerful, this is a heartfelt depiction of one family’s war. I think this book sets a precedent for seeing Syrians as multi-dimensional people rather than what we hear on the news. It’s refreshing and I hope more publishers get to publish stories like this that show a different side. Yours is one of the gateways to that. This feels like an evolutionary book compared to others we read that only focus on the refugee part rather than the life they left behind.’
Eiman Munro – SEN Teacher (lived in Damascus for a year)
‘Thank you for writing this. I really enjoyed it. I really couldn’t wait to read what happened next – it was so interesting. It’s been very frustrating for Syrians and personally for me when reading books about Syria or refugees by individuals who have no real experience or true understanding about authentic Syrian culture or about the issues we face, and many books have been published where Syrians are not consulted in the writing of them and they are published with cultural mistakes and negative stereotypes. I find this frustrating so it’s been great to read Boy, Everywhere that challenges those stereotypes and shows the reality of Syrians before the war. I loved the characters, they were very realistic and so convincing, the friendships so real. Such a good story – a brilliant novel.’
Nadine Kaadan, children’s author and illustrator from Damascus, Syria who now lives in London
‘A powerful and gut-wrenchingly moving story of one family’s displacement, crucially seen through the boy’s own eyes. Casually smashing stereotypes and challenging thinking, Dassu skilfully combines the stark and often shocking reality of the refugee experience with the commonality of being a teenager. The result is utterly thought-provoking yet eminently readable. Quite simply a must-read for all.’
Alexandra Strick, Consultant, BookTrust
‘Sami’s story is gripping, heart-breaking and realistic, told with devastating clarity and compassion. This perspective is urgently needed, showing the richness of the lives left behind in Syria as the war forces a terrible journey to safety.’
Liz Flanagan, children’s author
‘A.M. Dassu’s ‘Boy, Everywhere’ is a powerful story about the plight of refugees. I was hooked on Sami’s story and my heart was in my throat from the very beginning of the book. This story is full of empathy and friendship and I’m so glad the world will get to read it soon. Sami and his family face heart-breaking prejudice whilst they seek asylum in the UK and these realities need to be told. This will be such an important book for the classroom in the same vein as Onjali Q. Raúf’s ‘The Boy at the Back of the Class’. A.M. Dassu’s writing is gripping and emotive and she manages a perfect balance of tragedy, adversity and hope.’
Swapna Haddow – children’s author of Dave Pigeon and the forthcoming novel ‘Torn Apart – The Partition of India, 1947’
‘Boy, Everywhere is a moving and timely coming-of-age story that explores the unique experiences of Sami, an ordinary boy from Damascus whose whole life and understanding of the world is torn apart in the wake of a shopping mall bombing. Sami – with his love of football, computer games and iPads – is such a relatable character, and we follow him through a powerful and heartbreaking journey of growth as his family flee Syria for the (hoped-for) safety of the UK. Along the way, Sami must confront many of his own sheltered beliefs about himself, his family, morality and the world. In the same way, through her compassionate and heartfelt story-telling, A. M. Dassu moves us to open our own eyes to the issues facing refugee families today. A powerful, compassionate and enlightening book.’
Dr. Philippa East, Clinical Psychologist and Author
‘A brave book for our times: a fresh look at a story we think we know, full of danger and leavened with humanity. ‘
Dr. N M Browne writer and creative writing lecturer
‘You’ll wish you were there, in Syria, and whisper to the boy a few kind words, to give him soap and hot water in Turkey, and stand by him as he makes the nightmare sea-crossing to Greece. You’ll wish you were there, in the detention centre, and fight Air Jordans man alongside him. You’ll wish you were there because no one else was there to open their front door and welcome him in England. And without realizing, effortlessly and mysteriously, this story will take you there, because that’s what a good novel does: with pages sprinkled with magic, this book will transport you, as it did me; sitting comfortably at the other side of hope, I was there with that boy, everywhere, living through the stories that many of the refugees I work with have talked to me about.’ Dr. Alexandros Plasatis – Refugee worker, ethnographer and writer.
‘In a world full of stories about refugees, ‘Boy, Everywhere’ tells the story behind the story.
When the Syrian civil war finally reaches Damascus, Sami’s safe and relatable life quickly begins to disintegrate. You cannot help but feel bereft as his friends and belongings are hurriedly left behind and exchanged for a life of confusion and uncertainty.
This book all too realistically charts the swift dismantling of a family’s life. It suddenly becomes easy to understand how a comfortable, well-off existence, can quickly descend into poverty and chaos – how a family’s fate might ultimately be decided in a small boat crossing an inhospitable sea. My heart ached for Sami, leaving everything that he knows behind, and for his parents who can no longer reassure their children that everything will ever be ok again.
Sami’s story is heart breaking and will open people’s eyes and hearts to the plight of refugees everywhere. In a world of ‘othering’ this book does the opposite – it shows clearly that ‘they’ are also ‘us’.
The characters in this book are so relatable, with beautifully drawn details, and the pacing is spot on – I read it in a single sitting. It is a book that should be available in every classroom – it is a book to change hearts.’
Catherine Emmett, children’s author
I couldn’t put this down – what a story! I was on tenterhooks as Sami and his family fled Syria. It felt like I was there with them. I sobbed. I held my breath. I willed them on. This is a story crying out to be heard, and every young person should read it.
Kate Mallinder, children’s author
In Boy, Everywhere, A.M. Dassu draws us into the world of 13-year-old Sami, forced out of his comfortable Damascus life into the nightmarish existence of a refugee. In this close first-person narrative the reader is confronted with the terrible realities of war, people-smuggling, detention centres and prejudice. Dassu skilfully writes a story that feels acutely authentic, while always keeping it age-appropriate for its upper middle grade audience. A must read.
Kirsty Applebaum, children’s author
‘An astonishingly powerful and gripping story that has torn my heart apart and put it back together again. Despite the harrowing journey, the seemingly endless uncertainty and struggle, AM Dassu still manages to uplift the reader with such beautiful moments of human kindness. I’ll be thinking about this book for a very, very long time.’
Rashmi Sirdeshpande, children’s author
‘I felt thoroughly harrowed (as indeed I should). Such an important book – and so timely. Massive congrats on your achievement.’
Tanya Landman, Carnegie Award Winning children’s author
“An adventure for our times. Full of heart, and with an understanding of the humanity of all people, and the complexity of the decision to leave one’s beloved home to start all over again, somewhere strange and difficult. Funny, moving, exciting, enraging by turns, I read most of it through my fingers as the plot twisted and turned to its uplifting but realistic conclusion. A must read for everybody.”
Joanna de Guia, former bookseller, school librarian
‘Good books leave you a little bit changed, Boy, Everywhere made me want to change the world. Everyone should read this book.’
Kathryn Evans, children’s author
“I started Boy, Everywhere planning to nibble away at a chapter before getting on with my work. I stayed reading until the very end. It’s a story that everyone should read, written with empathy, tenderness and hope.”
Patrice Lawrence, award winning children’s author.
“A. M. Dassu engenders her characters and setting with such tangibility that we feel as though we are part of it. Boy, Everywhere is recommended highly to older readers. What a moving, necessary, raw book.” – @bookwagonuk
“It’s strange how we’d got used to the war in Syria and thought it wouldn’t affect us…But then everyone in Syria thought the war wouldn’t affect them- until it did.” 13-year-old Sami and his family flee their (until recently) privileged comfortable life in Damascus for safety in the UK. The journey is long, often impeded by both opportunists and unyielding, inhumane beaurocratic systems. And, in the end, it seems ‘sanctuary’ isn’t always kind. Nor comfortable.
Publishers submit a number of refugee narratives to Letterbox Library every year but very few manage to communicate the pain and lived trauma of the people making those journeys while also according refugees full humanity, dignity, and agency. Boy Everywhere is one of those very rare, authenticating and ‘humanising’ narratives. It is also a captivating story. From a debut writer, this is one remarkable achievement! In the words of London-based Syrian author, Nadine Kaadan, “I feel that it’s the first time I’ve read an English novel about our country without feeling strange or alienated from our own culture. I can’t think of a more empowering book about Syrian refugees. At a time when most children’s books about Syria are full of cultural appropriation and are very far away from the reality of our lives back home, this book is a must read for anyone who wants to expand their minds, bookshelves and most importantly, for those who want to overcome and challenge the negative stereotypes of Syria and Syrian refugees in literature.” Age 9-13, Paperback 283pp
“Sami’s story is shocking; it is powerful, emotive and heartbreakingly real… It is more than just a story. This lovingly researched and emphatic book shows us just how easy it is for a typical teenage life to be turned upside down, for success to crumble and for normality to be stripped brutally from under our feet. This timely book is a terrifying but humble reminder that we are all one cruel twist of fate from losing everything… but despite that, there is still hope.
Honestly, I wasn’t prepared for this book; it forced me into a world that is almost quite literally knocking on our doors for help… A world in which I think we have all, quite frankly, become dissattached to. It made me step out of my own preconceptions, my fears, my ignorance, and into the shoes of a parallel – but very real – life.
Embarking on this journey with Sami was a shocker, a heartreaker, an eye opener…but also, somehow, a joy.
‘Boy, Everywhere’ is the book everyone should read this autumn, for so many reasons.”