Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Review: Out of Nowhere by Maria Padian

An insightful look at the issues facing teens in America today: diversity, security, cyber-bullying, racism, sexism, substance abuse, overbearing parents. In fact, these are issues that are also being dealt with by the adults in our world which is precisely why I hesitated to catalog this book in the Young Adult section. I'm ready to get another copy and shelve in the adult section too.

In addition, while I love the Maine setting (and know that the story is based on very true situations here in Maine) this could be a story happening anyplace. Tom Bouchard, a high school senior, from a working class family of Franco-Americans who were themselves immigrants, is captain of the soccer team, all-around All American,  a girl loving white teenager who explains the problem early on:
 You gotta wonder who the genius was that came up with the plan to put a bunch of Africans in Maine, the coldest whitest state in America. Ok, maybe Alaska is colder, but not whiter.....our town wasn't ever anybody's first bright idea.  We'd gotten what's called a "secondary migration".....Anyway just about the time a bunch of Muslims took out the Twin Towers, a bunch of  Somali Muslims started seriously secondary-migrating here. (pp. 8-9).
This isn't just a book about how white teen-agers deal with "others".  It's also about issues faced by young adult Muslims trying to live, learn, and settle in post 9/11 America in a town that was totally unprepared to help them. It wasn't necessarily a lack of desire to learn or help on either side.  The issues were timing, resources, and a huge information gap. The story is not just about religious differences, it's about intolerance learned from parents, it's about a town coping with chance happening faster than can be handled.  It's about friendship, cultural diversity, poor parenting, good parenting, coaches, mentors, role models, fear of the unknown, bullying, courage, and the coming of age of an entire community - black and white.  It shows a town with all its warts, all its strengths, and offers hope for the triumph of wisdom and humanity over prejudice, ignorance and mean-ness.

The story is wonderfully crafted, sensitively written, heart-breaking, funny, affirming, discouraging and grand. The sports settings, high school pranks, hallway antics are all entwined with religious celebrations, teenage rites of passage, and encounters with the criminal justice system.  It is a book destined to be on many high school reading lists next year.  I just wonder if there isn't a way to require the parents, and all thinking adults to read it.  Although written and published as a Young Adult book, it's definitely worth a grown-up read.

Title: Out of Nowhere
Author: Maria Paladian
Publisher: Random House Children's Books (2012)  348 pages
Genre: Young Adult Fiction - coming of age
Subject: Diversity, racism, Muslim refugees
Setting: Enniston Maine
Source: e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley
Why did I read this book now? I was offered a review copy and was attracted to the setting.


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