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Nina searches for a new beginning
When her hiding place is no longer safe, twelve-year-old Nina Topic has no choice. If she is to survive the war, she must escape ravaged Sarajevo altogether. Believing that all her family and friends are now dead, Nina has one hope left - that a mysterious former acquaintance of her mother's who lives in far-off England will be willing to help. As a stowaway aboard a truck in an aid convoy, Nina begins the dangerous journey away from her homeland, a journey on which she must learn how to rely on strangers she wouldn't otherwise trust, in order to have a chance of putting the past behind her and starting a new life.
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Gaye Hicyilmaz is the author of four previous novels for young readers, including The Frozen Waterfall, winner of the Janusz Korczak Literary Award. She lives in Canterbury, England.
Once again focusing on themes of displacement, Hi?yilmaz (The Frozen Waterfall) conveys the hardships and emotional turmoil of a girl escaping current-day Sarajevo. Living in the countryside with her grandfather, 14-year-old Nina's precarious safety vanishes when her cousin brings soldiers to the house. The soldiers leave only after fatally wounding Nina's grandfather and cousin, and Nina, following her grandfather's instructions, sets out alone for England and a previously unknown friend of her mother's. She accepts whatever charity is offered: a ride in the back of a British truck; meager lodging with a disturbed ex-soldier; faded, hand-me-down clothes; and pitying glances. While she is "smiling for strangers," Nina silently seethes about the humiliations and injustices she has to endure. Her fury does not surface until she reaches her destination and meets her mother's friend, who reveals family secrets that Nina is not ready to accept. The violence Nina has experienced surfaces through fragments of dreams and memories; only gradually are the painful fates of her parents, brothers and cousins revealed. This approach seems emotionally truthful, but demands a lot from readers, especially given the intricacies of the conflicts in Bosnia and the former Yugoslavia. More central to the story are Nina's prevailing sense of loss and strong survival instincts. Nina emerges as psychologically complex, a tough and scarred heroine who may awaken readers to the price of war. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)
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