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Nowhere Boy

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Fourteen-year-old Ahmed is stuck in a city that wants nothing to do with him. Newly arrived in Brussels, Belgium, Ahmed fled a life of uncertainty and suffering in Aleppo, Syria, only to lose his father on the perilous journey to the shores of Europe. Now Ahmed’s struggling to get by on his own, but with no one left to trust and nowhere to go, he’s starting to lose hope.

Then he meets Max, a thirteen-year-old American boy from Washington, D.C. Lonely and homesick, Max is struggling at his new school and just can’t seem to do anything right. But with one startling discovery, Max and Ahmed’s lives collide and a friendship begins to grow. Together, Max and Ahmed will defy the odds, learning from each other what it means to be brave and how hope can change your destiny.

Audio CD

First published August 7, 2018

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Katherine Marsh

17 books192 followers

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5 stars
2,338 (50%)
4 stars
1,714 (37%)
3 stars
465 (10%)
2 stars
80 (1%)
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15 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 837 reviews
Profile Image for Flemingj.
150 reviews15 followers
August 14, 2018
Wow! I am just floored by this book. I read a lot about refugees and teach a unit on the current crisis to my middleschoolers, but this book is something wholly different. In the first half, I was so absorbed by the beautiful story of Max and his budding friendship with Ahmed. In the second half, I was wiping away tears and trying not to rush too fast to find out what happens to not just them, but their friends and families as well.

This book also brings the other side of the refugee crisis to light. How does a community absorb an increasingly desperate group of people? How can we help save as many fleeing families as possible and keep everyone safe from terrorism? What can we do to help both new and old residents of a place feel like they belong as demographics change so rapidly?

The historical background, coupled with recent events also makes it hard to put down. This is genuinely one I can't wait to share with my reading friends and students!
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone.
1,461 reviews184 followers
April 27, 2021
3.5 Stars rounded up to 4


Well this was a wonderful story about compassion and the power of friendship!

I suspect that most of what occurred in terms of Max and his friends efforts to help Ahmed are not likely to have been as successful as they turned out in this novel, but I honestly didn't dwell on that at all. I loved the story and the characters were endearing. They showed such strength and compassion in the face of adult cynicism and disregard for the feelings of others on a more difficult journey than their own. Really enjoyed this!
Profile Image for Andrew.
97 reviews8 followers
November 24, 2019
The story nowhere boy is kind of like ALWTW. I say this because both stories start off with 2 individual stories, but later on, they merge together to help each other's life. I think this book is also very emotional because, on one side, it talks about the hardships and struggles of being an immigrant, and especially a Muslim immigrant in Europe and on the other side, it talks about the struggles leaving your school and friends to go to school in a foreign place, while speaking a new language.

[Edit] I feel like I did not really enjoy this book. I felt like the character was a little bit too selfless and made many bad choices. I also think the author did not do a good job of portraying realistic human traits. What I'm saying is, I don't feel like the character is realistic and or does not make realistic decisions. The character has no reaction when seeing a refugee bigger than him living in the basement of their house. He simply just lets the refugee stay in their house. That is a very unrealistic decision. A realistic person would have screamed or told their parents. Also, after the refugee is going to leave their house, the boy still wants to follow him, risking his own life and the refugees live, without helping. He runs away from home with a refugee, and they board a train going hours away from their home. I find this really annoying because who in the right mind would run away from home, violate country laws, escape from the whole country's police, almost get killed, just to accompany a refugee to find the refugee's parent? While I do agree that being kind and having empathy for others is good, I feel the choices the main character makes is not realistic.
Profile Image for Skip.
3,226 reviews394 followers
June 2, 2019
Ahmed is a 14-year old Syrian boy on a boat with his father, fleeing Aleppo following the bombing of their home, killing the rest of his family. As the sea gets rough, his father and two others try to swim the boat ashore, drowning in the process. On the precipice of being separated from the Syrian family caring for him in Belgium, he is robbed and abandoned by smugglers. Miraculously, he finds his way into the basement of an American ex-pat family, where he hides until he is discovered by the teenage son, Max. Max is miserable in Belgium, attending a school where he does not understand much French, and babysat by a biased biddy. The two form a strong bond, eventually fleeing together to avoid police arrest. I also liked the teenage characters from the school, including the bully and Farah, who help Ahmed, and the local policeman, who grew up in the house being rented by the American family. 4.5 stars.

This book does a nice job of describing the terrible plight of refugees, who will accept them and at what cost in addition to the rampant fears in Europe (an elsewhere) of Muslims, who have different and not well understood beliefs.
Profile Image for teach_book.
272 reviews611 followers
March 21, 2022
Matulu, jakie to było piękne!!!

Historia o Maksie i Ahmedzie. Amerykaninie i Syryjczyku. O przyjaźni ponad podziałami, tolerancji i nietolerancji ze strony dorosłych, życzliwości oraz dziecięcym spojrzeniu na świat. Ah, i najważniejsze - o sytuacji uchodźców w Europie.
Profile Image for Karma.
291 reviews
August 20, 2018
OUTSTANDING!! I want every person, young and old, to read this book. I will definitely share it with my seventh-grade students and my son. I hope others will too.
Profile Image for Einakikhoshghalb.
73 reviews47 followers
December 25, 2020
این کتاب با نام «بی سرزمین» توسط نشر پرتقال در ایران منتشر شده.

بی سرزمین را به کندی خواندم. شاید چند هفته طول کشید. هر بار که بازش می‌کردم انگار خنجری به روحم می‌خورد. تجربه‌ی داعش و جنگ سوریه، برای ما تجربه‌ی خیلی خیلی نزدیکی بود. داعش سال‌های پایانی دبیرستان و ابتدایی دانشگاه من را به خودش اختصاص داده بود و در این داستان قسمت دیگری از تجربیاتم را می‌خواندم.

«بی سرزمین» داستانِ احمد پسری سوری که از کشورش فرار می‌کند تا به اروپا پناهنده شود. پدرش را در دریا از دست می‌دهد و دست آخر موفق می‌شود به اردوگاه‌های پناهندگی بلژیک برسد. اما اتفاقاتی رخ می‌دهد که از اردوگاه فرار می‌کند و در سرداب خانه‌ای در بروکسل پنهان می‌شود. خانه متعلق به خانواده‌ای آمریکایی است که تازه به بلژیک آمده‌اند. آن‌ها پسری به نام «مکس» دارند که تقریباً همسن احمد است. «بی‌سرزمین» داستان این دو پسر را به طور موازی برای ما روایت می‌کند، تا جایی که ماجرایشان بهم گره می‌خورد. مکس متوجه حضور احمد در خانه‌شان می‌شود و تصمیم می‌گیرد به او کمک کند.

باقی قصه ماجراجویی دو پسر نوجوان است. پی‌رنگ داستان ساده و در عین حال پرکشش است و خواننده را پای قصه نگاه می‌دارد، حتی در بعضی فصل‌ها کاری می‌کند که او «وای!» خفیفی بگوید. علاوه بر این نویسنده توانسته کاری کند که ما شخصیت‌ها را درک کنیم و با آن‌ها همراهی کنیم. برای احمد نگران شویم، یا به مکس به خاطر شجاعتش آفرین بگوییم. شاید نتوان گفت شخصیت احمد یا مکس شخصیتی به یادماندنی و منحصر به فرد است. اما در حدی هست که خواننده را راضی نگه دارد.

اما نقطه‌ی پررنگ این کتاب پی‌رنگ یا شخصیت‌پردازی آن نیست، بلکه زمینه‌ی داستان است. زمینه‌ای که از دیدگاه خودش یکی از مهم‌ترین اتفاقات قرن اخیر را برای نوجوان‌ها به تصویر می‌کشد. در سوریه جنگی به راه افتاده است. موج پناهندگی و از آن مهم‌تر ناامنی به خیابان‌های اروپا هم کشیده شده و زندگی همه را بهم ریخته. قبل از خواندن این کتاب تصور نمی‌کردم که اروپا تا این حد درگیر مساله داعش باشد. اتفاقاتی مثل قرنطینه سراسری برای پیدا کردن مهاجمان یا تعطیلی مدارس و مترو و فرودگاه‌ها. حوادثی که نشان می‌دهد اروپای به ظاهر آرام در سال‌های اوج‌گیری داعش روزگار سختی را می‌گذرانده. از طرفی موج پناهندگی برای آن‌ها علاوه بر مساله‌ی امنیتی یک مساله فرهنگی نیز هست. شخصیت‌های بلژیکی در چند جای کتاب می‌گویند که از این نگرانند که موج پناهنده‌ها سبک زندگی و فرهنگ آن‌ها را تغییر بدهد. نویسنده به خوبی توانسته از هر تفکری، شخصیتی را در داستان خودش بگنجاند. مکس آمریکایی که به نظرش همه‌ی پناهنده‌ها بد نیستند و می‌خواهد به آن‌ها کمک کنند، خانواده مکس که همه‌ پناهنده‌ها را بد نمی‌دانند ولی حاضر نیستند خودشان را هم به دردسر یبندازند، مادام پولین معلم سرخانه بلژیکی مکس که اعتقاد دارد راه ورود پناهندگان به اروپا باید بسته شود. همه‌ی این شخصیت‌ها در کنار هم اروپای سال‌های اوج‌گیری داعش را برای ما به تصویر می‌کشند.
نویسنده که خود آمریکایی است و از به وجودآورنده‌ی این آشوب به طور مستقیم حرفی نمی‌زند. اما در جایی از کتاب از زبان یکی از شخصیت‌ها می‌گوید:«آمریکایی ها باید پناهنده‌ها رو ببرن کشور خودشون. عاشق این هستن که جنگ راه بندازن، نمی‌خوان درگیر مشکلاتی بشن که خودشون برای بقیه دنیا درست کردن» غیر از این حرفی از اتفاقاتی که در سوریه می‌افتد زده نمی‌شود. سوریه مکان دوری است که در آن جنگ است. و این مساله دقیقاً همان نقطه‌ای ست که باعث می‌شد موقع خواندن کتاب خنجری به روحم بخورد. چون تجربه‌ی شخصی ما تصویری نزدیک‌تر از جنگ سوریه دارد. ما به طور مستقیم درگیر جنگ سوریه بودیم، در کنار کسانی که برای نابودی داعش جنگیدند نفس کشیدیم و کنار خانواده‌های داغدارشان نشستیم و مقام ارشد نظامی کشورمان کسی بود که یک روز نابودی داعش را اعلام کرد و کمتر از سه سال بعد ترور شد.

«بی سرزمین» کتاب خوبی برای نوجوان هاست. برای اینکه بدانند آنچه از داعش شنیده می‌شد نه یک توهم که یک بحران جهانی بود و کتاب خوبی برای ماست که یادمان بیاورد داستانِ واقعی جنگ داعش هنوز روایت نشده است. قهرمان‌های داستان واقعی بنیادهای خیریه یا پسران نوجوانی مثل مکس نیستند که به پناهجویان خانه و موقعیت بدهند، بلکه کسانی هستند که داعش را از ریشه نابود می‌کنند تا دیگر در سوریه جنگی نباشد. احمدها هیچ‌وقت پناهنده نشوند و در حلب در کنار خانواده خود زندگی کنند.

اما هیچ کدام از این ها دلیلی بر این نیست که این کتاب لیاقت پنج ستاره را نداشته باشد. اگر بخواهیم آن را با کتاب «شاگرد ته کلاس» که به تازگی توسط نشر پیدایش ( دقیقا با چنین داستانی) منتشر شده مقایسه کنیم باید بگوییم بی سرزمین نه تنها کتابی قوی تر است که روایتی صادقانه تر هم دارد. چیزی که نوجوان ها برای شناخت بهتر دنیا به آن نیاز دارند.
Profile Image for David.
537 reviews122 followers
December 31, 2020
This story of 14 year old Ahmed will win your heart as you root for him to triumph over constant adversities. He is a Syrian Muslim refugee that falls off a swamped boat as the book begins. He and his father escape Syria after losing most of their family to bombing at home. But Ahmed even loses his dad to the sea during the escape.

We hear of crowded refugee camps where conditions make Ahmed flee again. This adventure does not end until the last page of the book. The real-world feelings in Europe are spoken about, where the people understand they should help, but there are radicals being recruited among these lost refugees that might not always be best for the host country.

What a great book for the early teens or younger to get hooked on. (I qualify as an adult, and I was hooked too). You feel the positive energy, yet you are worried at every exploit that Ahmed goes through. The power of friendship and youthful non-prejudice is heartwarming to read.
Profile Image for Zuzulivres.
332 reviews93 followers
September 13, 2021
Príbeh na motívy Anny Frankovej v podaní sýrskeho chlapca Ahmeda ma veľmi bavil. Napriek tomu, že miestami sa môže zdať neuveriteľným, ba pritiahnutým za vlasy, autorku k napísaniu inšpirovali skutočné príbehy, ľudia, miesta a udalosti.
Profile Image for Maddy C.
6 reviews2 followers
January 14, 2019
The book was really good and well written. She split the two peoples lives into chapters so every chapter you either read about Ahmed’s point of view and the next chapter would be Max’s, I thought that was really cool. And I definitely love how she combined her part of her life into the book and how it’s like different parts of non-fiction and fiction. I definitely recommend this book if people like thrilling stories of two peoples lives both sad and thrilling.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
176 reviews1 follower
May 17, 2019
One of the most empathy-building books I’ve read in a long time, “Nowhere Boy” needs to be read today. Marsh weaves a true story of WW2 heroism into a fictitious account of an American expatriate living in Brussels. Max Howard hates his new school and his new life away from friends in the states. Learning to be a foreigner is difficult, but Max realizes just how difficult it is to be a foreigner when he meets Ahmed, who lives in his wine cellar unbeknownst to his parents.
This book doesn’t simplify the issues for mid-grade readers. They are gently introduced to the complexity of feelings surrounding the refugee crisis, but what they hopefully walk away with is courage to risk kindness for others.
Fantastic! So well written!
Profile Image for Calypso.
414 reviews3 followers
September 20, 2018
Excellent! Exciting! Laughter and crying and social issues. Great read for anyone 6th grade and up. I am sure this book will get many awards.
Profile Image for Linda .
3,613 reviews39 followers
August 19, 2018
I read many wonderful books, yet it has been a while that one book brought me to tears. Perhaps it's because the children, two boys, then another boy and a girl are all middle-school age kids, the same ages that I taught. All the years I taught, I grew to know how capable they were, how much they could do. More than once, I felt they were not given the chance to do great things. In this story of 14-year-old Ahmed who's stuck in a city that doesn't want him and Max, a 13-year-old American boy who's also stuck because of his parents' move to Brussels, Katherine Walsh shows them using their smarts, defying odds to solve terrifying challenges.
Adding to the story is the book's ending conversation with Walsh, telling how a story of the house in which she ended up residing in her own move to Brussels began the kernel of this story. Bringing the hiding of a Jewish boy into Max's own story of finding the courage to do what he knew was right blended the perils of the Holocaust into our own twenty-first-century perils, those refugees from Syria and other countries who just want a chance to live safely with their loved ones. Adding in a couple of Max's classmates who also understand loss and help with Ahmed's desperate needs shows that when given choices, young people are capable of extraordinary deeds.
Written in alternate chapters, Max and Ahmed tell the story, day by tense day. Ahmed, hiding in Max's basement, shows his kind nature despite his tragic history of first losing his grandfather, mother and sisters in a bombing of their building, then his father as they journeyed by boat to the shores of Europe. Walsh's writing touched me many times. Here is Ahmed thinking of his losses: "Perhaps death was just another border, a line his body couldn't cross but that his heart kept slipping over." Max, moving from friends in the U.S., now stuck in a school where he doesn't even know the language, receiving bullying words he also can't understand, discovers Ahmed, and the decision-making of 'what to do' begins. When he learns that Ahmed has not been to school in three years, he understands that "He has always taken school for granted. Now he realized that even being able to hate it was a luxury." It is a story that will offer this question to every reader, "what would you do?"
Profile Image for Becky R..
457 reviews81 followers
March 11, 2019
In the novel Nowhere Boy, we meet Ahmed, a young teen escaping Syria with his father. Having lost most of his family, he and his father left by boat to try to reach Greece, where his father dies in the sea. Over and over again, Ahmed meets great tragedy and ends up alone, without his father, in Belgium. Knowing he is not welcome and easily duped by smugglers, he finds his way to the home of an American family living in Belgium. He hides out in their basement, evading detection in every way possible.

I don't want to give away more of the story, but the journey that Ahmed takes does feel unbelievable. My one reason for being okay with his seemingly far-fetched survival is the fact that someone is willing to tackle this story--of refugees cast out by every society, only to live off the streets, vulnerable to attack and abuse. I feel like Ahmed's fictional story opens up a dialogue about how we treat people on the run from repressive regimes. What is ALL of our part in their survival? For this novel, I thought that it makes for a great introduction and discussion into the plight of Syrian refugees and would allow young teens to think about and discuss a very difficult contemporary issue.
Profile Image for Sandra.
277 reviews26 followers
June 25, 2020
When you read what feels like historical fiction but is really realistic fiction because it is set in contemporary times, it humbles you. This story is about the plight of refugees that is not “long ago” or too “far away.” Told in alternating point of views, this narrative is set in 2015 in Belgium. Max is a 13yo whose family moves from DC to Brussels for one year, and he faces learning a new language when he was already having academic difficulties in the States. Ahmed is a 14yo Syrian refugee who has lost his family in his war-torn home and is trying to survive alone after having fled to Europe by boat. Ahmed secretly takes shelter in Max’s residence, in the cellar of the basement. When Max accidentally finds out about this new “tenant,” he discovers one thing he is good at—being a good friend and provider to Ahmed. This novel helps children understand compassion amidst the refugee crisis, as well as the importance of friendship, working together, and the meaning of hope in survival mode. The Author’s Note is revealing and meaningful, and there is an educator’s guide on Katherine Marsh’s website. An excellent book for high intermediate grade readers to middle schoolers to experience humanity.
Profile Image for Darla.
3,148 reviews445 followers
July 31, 2018
This new middle grade novel depicts a young Syrian refugee (Ahmed) who is stranded in Brussels and is befriended by an American boy (Max). Ahmed loses his father on the crossing, is betrayed by a smuggler and escapes into the Brussels residential area. He hides in the wine cellar of the house where Max and family have come to live during their year in Belgium. The house is located on a street named after Albert Jonnert, a Belgian boy who helped a Jewish boy avoid capture during WW II.

The juxtaposition of the WW II story with the modern refugee crisis was interesting and makes the reader see the plight of the current refugees and there are some similarities to the treatment Jews received due to the Nazi policies.

Unfortunately Max decides to operate on his own without even giving his parents a chance to help. He breaks so many rules and causes so much worry for his family in the midst of a terrorist crisis in Brussels. Would not recommend for students younger than fifth or sixth grade.

I received a digital ARC of this book from MacMillan and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Barbara.
12.9k reviews264 followers
May 8, 2019
It is surely hoped that readers of this novel will develop compassion and empathy for those Syrian refugees they read and hear about. On the face of things, the two boys at the heart of this book would seem to have nothing in common and their paths were not likely to cross. Fourteen-year-old Ahmed is stuck in Brussels, Belgium, with no money, no phone, and nowhere to go after being tricked by a smuggler. Not only has he lost three family members during a bombing in Aleppo, Syria, but he also saw his father drown in the Aegean Sea when the engine of the boat that is transporting them fails. He stumbles upon an unused cellar in the house in which Max, a thirteen-year-old American boy, is living with his family for a year. Max is miserable, lost, and not thrilled about attending a school where he will need to learn to speak in French and repeat his sixth grade year. When he stumbles upon Ahmed, he knows that he should tell his parents about their uninvited guest, and yet, something tells him that this is his chance to step up and do the right thing. Drawing inspiration from the example of real-life hero Albert Jonnart who hid Ralph Mayer, a Jew, during the Holocaust, risking his own life in the process, Max hides Ahmed and even figures out a way to help him attend school briefly. This is an inspiring story of compassion and kindness that explores the emigration crisis and the paranoia that surfaces during acts of terrorism. Readers will most likely ask themselves what they would have done in Max's situation or how it might feel to be a nowhere boy like Ahmed. Most likely, they will also note the many things that Max and Ahmed have in common.
Profile Image for aqilahreads.
532 reviews41 followers
April 17, 2021
this book is about a young syrian refugee, ahmed, who has nowhere to go in brussels and eventually finds a place to stay – in a basement room without the family knowing that he is there. one fine day, max whom lives in the house found out about it and decided to keep it a secret.

i love the friendship build between ahmed & max, showing that there is still compassion and kindness in this world. the overall message is inspiring and it could really change peoples’ views on refugees. bits of positive messages like how you can never judge someone simply because of their background & what their people have done. its really touching and such an important read even for adults. its a bit of a slow read but it is all worth it. highly recommend!!!
Profile Image for Annie L. C2.
11 reviews
February 12, 2021
What would you do if you were stuck? Stuck in a place that thinks you are dangerous. Stuck in a place where you don't belong. Stuck in a place where you have nothing but you. Thats what happened to one of our protagonist. Ahmed, a fourteen year old boy who fled from the torments in Syria. Only to lose his father on the way, He loses hope
Max, a thirteen-year-old American boy, has many troubles as well. Bothered by a bully in school, can't speak french but goes to a french school, being homesick are just some.
But one day, Max and Ahmed's lives ran into each other.
As their friendship grows, Max helps Ahmed to survive. He does anything he can. Even if it means doing something illegal.
Overall, I think this book is really good and the cover really appealed to me. People who like to read books like "Refugee" or "Echo" will sure love this book. This warm-hearted story of friendship and relisience can really change someones heart.
Profile Image for DaNae.
1,298 reviews74 followers
June 7, 2019
I think I'm a sucker for stories where kids manage to pull the wool over their adult's eyes. The stakes in this are higher than the Alden children living in the forest, and perhaps just as unrealistic. But I liked both boys quite a lot and rooted for their schemes.
Profile Image for Julie Suzanne.
1,869 reviews66 followers
May 22, 2019
I usually tolerate and appreciate middle grade books. I respect what they do, understand that I am not the intended audience, and try to imagine I'm a kid when I read them so that I don't roll my eyes too much. This book surprised me and made me worry, hate, love and cry and I didn't have to remind myself that this book is not actually written for me. I recommend Nowhere Boy to all middle school students.

Compassion, hope, prejudice, friendship, the refugee experience, following conscience over law...there's a ton to discuss with readers.
Profile Image for Arefe.
40 reviews16 followers
September 7, 2021
بی‌سرزمین یکی از بهترین و متفاوت‌ترین رمان‌های نوجوانی‌ست که خوانده‌ام
داستان احمد، پناهنده‌ی جنگ‌زده‌ی سوری که پدرش را در راه بلژیک از دست داده و یواشکی در زیرزمین خانه‌ی یک‌خانواده‌ی آمریکایی زندگی می‌کند. مواجهه‌ی پسر این‌خانواده‌ آمریکایی با احمد که یک‌پسر مسلمان است واقعا خواندنی‌ست. آن هم در روزگاری که داعش در مرکز شهرهای اروپایی حملات تروریستی می‌کند و مسلمانان همگی خطرناک و تروریست شناخته می‌شوند
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