Monday 1 July 2019

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Review: Internment by Samira Ahmed (#Ad)

Internment by Samira Ahmed

I received this eProof for free from Atom via NetGalley for the purposes of providing an honest review.

Internment by Samira Ahmed

Published: 19th March 2019 | Publisher: Atom | Cover Designer:  | Source: NetGalley
Samira Ahmed's Website

Rebellions are built on hope.

Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.

With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp's Director and his guards.

Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.
From Goodreads

Trigger Warnings: This book features racism, Islamophobia, imprisonment, violence, violence against women, death, discussion of torture, discussion of internment camps - specifically Manzanar internment camp and Nazi concentration camps, and discussion of the Holocaust.

Review edited on 5th July 2019. My original review was harmful, due to discussing inconsistencies that had me questioning why there wasn't more pain for the Muslim charcters of colour. You can read my acknowledgement of my mistake and apology here. For transparency, you can find a screen cap of the original wording here.

I absolutely loved Samira Ahmed's debut novel, Love, Hate & Other Filters, and Internment sounded so good, so I was so looking forward to reading it. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy it as much as I hoped.

Firstly, I want to discuss how horrific this story is. It's set in the not too distant future in America where things that have been mentioned by someone in power have come about. There is a Muslim ban. There is a wall at the Mexican border. There are no refugees or asylum seekers. There is a curfew; there is book burning; there is mandatory watching of the president's address. Islamophobia is law. Layla's father lost his job as an English professor. Layla has been taken out of school for fear of what could come next, because she had been suspended just for kissing her Jewish boyfriend in public. The world Layla lives in is terrifying. And then men with guns turn up at their house, and under a new law that's come through, Layla's family must be "relocated", and are taken to a Muslim internment camp. Ahmed does a wonderful job of taking things that have been said, and showing what that would look like in reality. And it's all the more terrifying because it's not a huge leap from what has been said, to Internment becoming a reality - especially when this has already happened before, with Nazi concentration camps, and the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II, which Layla thinks about and discusses with the friends she's made. With what's been said and with what's in our not too distant past, the premise of Internment is so very believable. And this is why Internment is an important story; this is what could be. This is what shouldn't be. It doesn't flinch away from how petrifying this whole situation is. The removal of rights, the cameras in their caravan homes, the cameras on drones watching their every move, the guards who are absolutely everywhere. The threats to enforce obedience, the public violence, the people who disappear with no explanation, never seen again. Ahmed doesn't sugar coat any of it, and it's so, so powerful.

Unfortunately, for me, Internment was very slow. I get that they're in an internment camp, and there's not a huge amount they can do, but I'm referring to the rebellion. I think the description is misleading, because it's not the kind of rebellion we would expect having read other dystopian novels. It's a lot quieter and a lot smaller. But it took such a long time for the acts of rebellion to happen, and the pace just felt really off to me. It was a quick read, but it was one I did have to force myself to read at times, because I was losing interest.

And then there are some inconsistencies. There are things Layla does that are against the rules, but she doesn't get found out. I didn't want her to get found out, but with all the guards and the drones, she is extremely lucky to have not been caught. It's almost miraculous. It just doesn't quite make sense. However, if she had done quite a lot of reconnaissance, figured out times of guard changes, times of patrols, patterns of the drones, and figured out when the best time to do things was, it would have made sense that she didn't get caught. But she doesn't do that. This comes into play later into the story, but it's not her who does it, and there are the instancies earlier on where she got lucky.

Later in the book, after some of the quiet acts of rebellion take place, she is questioned a number of times in relation to what's happened, while almost no-one else is. It's true that Layla is one of the people - and in some cases the only person - leading these acts of rebellion, but those in charge don't know that, and have no reason to know that. No-one else taking part in these acts of rebellions would grass her up, and as they happened, there was never a clear leader. I don't understand why she specifically was singled out for questioning.

So while the whole premise overall is so believable as to be terrifying, there were a number of things that happened that, for me, didn't quite make sense. And that along with the very slow pacing led to me not enjoying this book very much, and feeling quite disappointed. But it is important, and there are parts of it that are really powerful. And there are a lot of people who loved it, so perhaps it's just me. So do read other reviews before deciding whether or not you'll read this.

Thank you to Atom via NetGalley for the eProof.

You might also like:

Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

Over to you graphic
Have you read any books that are terrifying due to how possible they are? What do you think of books that are important and powerful, but leave you feeling disappointed? Have you read Internment? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!
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