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The Secret Sky - Review by Hannah, Teen Blogger

Discover Catalogue - The Secret Sky“[The Secret Sky is] a tale of the indomitable Afghan spirit of hope and love. Among the many novels set in Afghanistan for young people or for adults, The Secret Sky stands alone. Unputdownable. Unforgettable.” –Trent Reedy, author of Words in the Dust

The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi is a story of love, beliefs, culture and betrayal. First thing I want to make clear is that this book is not a happily ever after swoony romantic story with no significant purpose. It explores in-depth the corrupt society of Afghanistan at that time. Now, knowing about Afghanistan's history would certainly help when one reads The Secret Sky. Afghanistan was invaded by the Soviet Union back in 1979. This resulted in the Soviet–Afghan War that lasted over 9 years from December 1979 to February 1989. The war was fought between Afghanistan rebels and the Soviet Union-supported Afghanistan government. After the Soviet Union left Afghanistan, the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. So the book is set in a rural area which is controlled by the Taliban. The beliefs and morals of the Taliban contribute to the plot and overall the story as a whole. [Editor's Note: to see a chronology of historical events in Afghanistan, see here.]

This story is told from the perspective of three characters: Fatima, Sami, and Rashid. The usual for many romance novels is for the story to be expressed through the different eyes of the relationship, that is, the eyes of Sami and Fatima. My favourite thing about this book is that Rashid, Sami's cousin, narrates from outside of Fatima and Sami's relationship. I felt that this was what made this romantic story unique and really stand out from all the others.

Rashid for me, was perhaps the most interesting character. Rashid is a misguided individual whose moral compass is compromised by jealousy, anger, and hatred. It is Rashid who discovers the potential romance between Fatima and Sami and Rashid who manipulates the situation in an effort to guarantee an outcome borne of hatred and violence. Rashid was taught very similar beliefs to the Taliban. He was brainwashed into thinking that those who break the laws of Islam deserve harsh punishment (execution, lashes). The faults of Rashid were not because of his lack of knowledge but rather the misguided interpretation of his faith. For me his character was interesting because I couldn't identify with his thought process and actions. I was fascinated by this deeply flawed, deeply wrong individual. I wanted redemption for him. I wanted him to see the error in his ways.

I would recommend this book to those people out there (like me) who are sick of the happily every after endings, but are still into romance. This book kinda has a dark twist to it that in my opinion puts a little excitement into this book. But if you are into the happy sunny books you should probably stay clear of this book.


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