Amal Unbound (Paperback)
From the opening page, I was hooked by the spirited voice of book-loving Amal, a Pakistani village girl who is devoted to her growing family and dreams of being a teacher and a poet. Amal’s character was inspired by Malala and her courageous activism for girls’ education rights. Readers will be uplifted by Amal’s struggle to escape indentured servitude and return to the family she loves and the the destiny she deserves.— Rhonda
Amal has big dreams, until a nightmarish encounter . . .
Twelve-year-old Amal's dream of becoming a teacher one day is dashed in an instant when she accidentally insults a member of her Pakistani village's ruling family. As punishment for her behavior, she is forced to leave her heartbroken family behind and go work at their estate.
Amal is distraught but has faced setbacks before. So she summons her courage and begins navigating the complex rules of life as a servant, with all its attendant jealousies and pecking-order woes. Most troubling, though, is Amal's increasing awareness of the deadly measures the Khan family will go to in order to stay in control. It's clear that their hold over her village will never loosen as long as everyone is too afraid to challenge them--so if Amal is to have any chance of ensuring her loved ones' safety and winning back her freedom, she must find a way to work with the other servants to make it happen.
* “A Pakistani girl’s dreams of an education dissolve when she is forced into indentured servitude. . . . Amal narrates, her passion for learning, love for her family, and despair at her circumstance evoked with sympathy and clarity, as is the setting. Inspired by Malala Yousafzai and countless unknown girls like her, Saeed’s timely and stirring middle-grade debut is a celebration of resistance and justice.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
* “Saeed’s middle grade debut shares an empowering message about the importance of family, literacy, and cultural ties. The rich storytelling, nuanced characterization of an all-Pakistani cast, complex and layered look at the socioeconomics of the region, and richly described setting make this ultimately hopeful contemporary tale a good alternative to Gloria Whelan’s Homeless Bird and Patricia McCormick’s Sold. A strong choice for all middle grade shelves, especially where readers are seeking stories about young girls in non-Western countries overcoming adversity.”—School Library Journal, starred review
* "This beautifully crafted and moving story will encourage middle grade readers to ponder such issues as indentured servitude, class, and resistance. Saeed’s well-developed narrative will evoke empathy for all those around the world like Amal, who are not guaranteed freedom or education. An inspired read for all, particularly for those who have followed Malala Yousafzai’s story or enjoyed Deborah Ellis’ The Breadwinner or Tara Sullivan’s The Bitter Side of Sweet."—School Library Connection, starred review
“Readers will find that a little perseverance and a heart filled with hope can eventually surmount a harsh reality. Saeed fills her prose with lush descriptions of Pakistani life, while still managing to connect with readers whose surroundings and experiences will be starkly different. Hand to any reader who struggles with definitive gender roles, norms, and expectations held in place by societal structures.”—Booklist
“This simple yet lyrical novel paints an evocative picture of life in a small village in modern-day Pakistan, especially the limits placed on girls and women. . . . It may serve as a read-alike or a gateway to stories such as Yousafzai’s autobiography, I Am Malala; The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah; and Saeed’s debut novel, Written in the Stars.”—The Voice of Youth Advocates
“Amal’s narration is straightforward and direct, and her despair at losing her dreams is palpable, as is her unflagging determination to get them back. . . . There’s clear commentary on the marginalized lives of girls and women in Pakistan . . . and the fight for her education is already fraught even before she is taken from her home. An author’s note discusses the issues of indentured servitude, particularly among girls.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“This heart-wrenching yet hopeful contemporary novel about class, gender, and literacy features a narrator who takes great risks in the name of justice and self-determination. . . . Short chapters and unadorned prose make the story accessible and direct, with Amal’s emotions, perspective, and strength anchoring the narrative. An author’s note asserts that Amal represents real women and girls who fight injustice across the globe, often without recognition.”—Horn Book