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Refugee Boy

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  1,352 Ratings  ·  120 Reviews
Bloomsbury paperback original. 296 pp.13 cm wide,20cm long.
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 2001 by Bloomsbury
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Trigger warnings: racism, murder (it happens off the page and is only related in letter form, but (view spoiler), death of a parent.

I wanted to love this book, I really did. I mean, it's the story of a 14 year old boy whose father takes him to England on "holiday" and then leaves him there to claim refugee status to get him out of the Ethiopian/Eritrean border war. It should have been hard hitting and compelling and an insight to the
Helen F
Jan 17, 2014 rated it did not like it
I read this book for work purposes as I work in literacy with teenagers. I have heard such good things about this book so it has surprised me that of all the YA books I have read over the last year this was my least favourite. I found the writing style weak and as though it was written for children much younger than its intended audience. I also found it difficult to really engage with the characters, mostly due to the way it was written. In my opinion it would be a book for very weak readers an ...more
Absolutely incredible story - I was stunned to find out at the end that it was fictional! I honestly thought this was a true story. Man.

I read an 'uncorrected proof' because that just happened to be the copy I found (in a secondhand bookstore). So I don't know if things were changed or what, but I LOVED the start - how in the first chapter they are in Ethiopia, and Alem's father is being called a traitor because his wife is Eritrean... then the second chapter is almost word for word exactly the
Jun 24, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is a novel about a boy who had to flee from both Ethiopia and Eritrea and ends up as a refugee in Great Britain. I think the subject matter is a very important one and I overall liked how it was addressed, I just felt that the story was lacking on the emotional side, or rather, the writing didn't really provoke many emotions in me, which is a bit of a shame.
Matt Craft
I found the story to be moving, but the writing was not very strong. It helped that I work with people from East Africa - I was interested to read about some of the recent history and to consider what refugees go through in seeking asylum. Unfortunately, the characters were one-dimensional and the style was clumsy. The book may be worth reading, but I didn't love it.
Aikae Laumape
Aug 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Refugee Boy written by Benjamin Zephaniah is a conflicting and compelling novel about a young boy by the name of Alem Kelo who is caught in between two countries at war. I decided to read this book because it was recommended by my little cousin and i thought i should give it a chance, so obviously that would mean that on the Bingo bored it would fall under the category of recommended by a family member .Not thinking much of the book at first after reading 13 pages I was hooked and after quickly ...more
Nov 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
I thought this book was absolutely exceptional and thought provoking. The subject is very important and I greatly appreciated the message it gave.
Especially important because of the current global issues (cough America cough cough)

It made me think so much about life and refugees and loss.

Reasons as to why I didn't give it a five star is because the writing was very average, although the storyline was pretty good. I did not like Alem. Yes i felt for him but I just didn't find him as likeable a
Nancy Freund
Nov 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This excellent YA novel is part of our school's Year 8 (age 12-13) curriculum, and I've seen so many students (readers, reluctant readers, voracious readers) devour this one that I was eager to read it myself. Absolutely worth it, for the novel itself and for the fact that it led me to Benjamin Zephaniah's poetry and more. Refugee Boy is an excellent story, very revealing about the refugee experience in Britain, and very real. I overhear students discussing Ethiopia and Eritrea with an understan ...more
Jan 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
fantastic sory of a refugees and the hardships and trial they must endure ,but Alems own story is heartbreaking ,yet he is able to always look ahead and challenge himself even in his darkest moments. I encourage others to read this story to understand why some people are refugges and understand what that really means. Also to look into themselves to appreciate all that is one has especially an education.
Jun 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book. It was very moving in many ways. I liked the plot and how the characters moved around in it. I liked the love that the characters had for alem. It was sad but VERY well written. is it fictional???
Hana Ketley
Aug 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
i liked the idea of this book and the theme was very moving but i just couldn't get into the story, connect with the character or enjoy the writing style, which is a shame because i loved one of his other books 'face'.
Mar 19, 2015 rated it liked it
This is an absolutely incredible story! It makes you think about important social issues like war and refuge and tells an important story because there are so many refugees with stories as extraordinary or even more so as this!
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read this book in my English class in Year 8 and I totally loved reading it! It was so interesting and I couldn't put it down..Totally recommend this to anyone..
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Mairead by: Year 9 student studying it in class
I wasn't impressed with this book at all. The characters were all too good to be true. The school boy activists came across as too polished in their ability to organise events, speak to large crowds etc - this is totally at odds with my own experience of what young people of this age are capable of or have the confidence to achieve. I was always aware of the author in the background because the characters and plot weren't believable. His viewpoint came through in the speech of some of the charac ...more
Gavin Stephenson-Jackman
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A stunning examination of the plight of refugees, which is all the more powerful today as we deal with a whole new class of political refugees from the United States. How we welcome refugees is critically examined here. Do we welcome them with open arms, respect, and help them adjust to life in a new and strange land, or do we treat them as 'other', to be suspect, and isolated. Alem and his father leave the war zone between Ethiopia and Eritrea for a 'vacation' in London. Alem wakes up two days ...more
Gina Anne
Mar 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Sad, sad. Some parts seem really implausible (the language, at times, the believability of the characters and choices) but in general it is a heartbreaking and compelling story that I am sure is replicated more often than most of us can imagine in the real world. Pairing this novel with works of non-fiction would help tell a story of the challenges refugees face and how these personal, social, and geo-political challenges intersect with laws, codes, and ethics. It was a required read and I'm pos ...more
Sep 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels
The opening to this book uses a great device and would be a fantastic springboard to discussing war and perspectives. Up to the point where Alem is left in the UK this could be a good class book for upper KS2, reflecting on the strangeness of new places and reasons why people end up as refugees. Thereafter the themes become darker and there is one occasion where the language is inappropriate for primary school. The plot of the book is a useful one in exploring being a child refugee in the UK. Ho ...more
Oct 01, 2017 rated it liked it
Overall this was a good book. Alem Kilo who is the main character has a personality that gives the whole story the colour. The theme is just a little boring. During the story both Alem's mum and dad die. Alem is left with his foster parents and he tries to seek refugee. Overall I give it a 3.5 rank.
Jessica Fear
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
Very simplistic. Not a big fan of Zephaniah's writing style as it's too childish and obvious for my tastes. That said, taught it to a bunch of middle-ability 12/13 year olds and they loved it, so maybe it's just an age thing?
Jennifer Avila
Mar 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
I read this with a class of Year 9 students and they loved the simplicity of the language to cover such an important issue. Its topic is as relevant as it was when it written in 2000. It brought up a lot of powerful, purposeful conversations.
Eloise Bookish Worm
May 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Heart breaking... enabled me to look further than my comfort zone, where everything is all peaceful and free. Got to understand more about the opposite side of the world and take the war and refugee problems much more serioulsly with respected care. Completely changed my way of seeing society.
Purple Iris
I liked this overall, but found the ending chosen by the author unnecessary.
Vicky Epshtein
Sep 30, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is really great, it is so emotional and has many awesome plot twists. The ending is so unexpected and I would strongly recommend it to contemporary lovers:)
saadia abdulkarim

This is not what I expected st all I love this book and I recommend any one to read it and I think that the quality is great too
Luke Hensman
Nov 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It is a true story and is sad in some part but I enjoyed it.
Nov 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Teen, teen librarians, adults
Recommended to E by: Library school!
Alem Kelo is Ethiopian and Eritrean, and because of his dual identity, it's not safe for him to live in either country. He and his father go on a holiday to London, to get away from it all. One morning in London, Alem wakes up and discovers his father has gone and left him there on his own, in hopes of protecting him from the violence of the war. This is only the beginning of Alem's journey. What follows is a combination of terrible and joyful.

There's a lot of detail about what it's like to be a
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
As a dynamic book, Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah has become a personal favorite. I find this book inspirational because it deals with the conflicts of having a troublesome life and making the most with it. The main character's name is Alem Kelo. Alem is a fourteen year old African boy who was born in Ethiopia. Ethiopia began to go to war with the country Eritrea once Alem reached the age of fourteen. This caused Alem's father to take him to England where he will remain while his father retu ...more
May 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: refugee-boy
The Title Of the book I just Finished reading is called Refugee Boy. Writtin By Benjamin Zephaniah, After a war Breaks out between Eritrea and Ethiopia, A young Boy is tricked, Into going to London for a son and father Trip.The Boy is abandonded by his father the first night they arrive, Alem, the boy is then forced to live for himeself for a while and become a London Refugee Boy.

There are several parts in the book that were good, but the one I found the best would be when Alem meet his father o
Zaynäb Book  Minimalist
Apr 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book exposed me to life as a refugee and how our society have failed to acknowledge and respect refugees as humans. We all have forgotten that a refugee is a person, who for some reason has left everything they know and love to find safety in a strange and sometimes hostile country.

The Story of Alem is a very sad one as he never truly belonged anywhere because he was of mixed parentage (an Eritrean mother and an Ethiopian father).

In Ethiopia, Alem and his family were victimized because hi
Abdul Muktadir
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
The beauty of this novel is its simplicity. Benjamin Zephaniah has a unique talent in delivering important motifs of contemporary significance through his use of innocent, yet equally devastating, language. I only picked this novel up to try and resonate with an ever present refugee crisis, only catalysed by the wider awareness through the crisis in the Middle East.

You can instantly connect with the characters Zephaniah creates. Alem's power as the central character is essential throughout the s
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A British-Jamaican writer, dub poet and Rastafari. He was included in The Times list of Britain's top 50 post-war writers in 2008.
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“This planet is for everyone, borders are for no one. It's all about freedom.” 30 likes
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