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The Heart of Aleppo: A Story of the Syrian Civil War

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#1 Bestseller in Asian-American Literature!
Available in paperback, Kindle, and Kindle Unlimited!
Winner of the 2019 Independent Press Award

From the ashes of the Syrian Civil War comes this story of hope, love, and courage...

After standing for over 7,000 years, Aleppo's ruin came overnight. Separated from his family during the night the rebels attacked the city, 13-year-old Zaid Kadir is lost in the middle of a war zone. Alongside his friends, he is forced to survive the dangers of a civil war he does not even fully understand.

Zaid witnesses the destruction of the brutal Syrian Civil War as it grows more deadly by the day and rips his city apart. However, as he braves this destruction, as he desperately tries to survive this catastrophe, he discovers something. Zaid realizes that it is in the darkest hours when humanity's spirit of hope burns brightest.

What readers are saying:
"The Heart of Aleppo does for Syria what The Kite Runner did for Afghanistan."
"Heart-wrenching, powerful story that portrays heroism and hope under the worst circumstances!"
"As a fan of The Book Thief, I really enjoyed this read."
"Moving tale of how war effects children! I have seen the war reported on the news, but this book really brings it home how it has affected families on a day to day basis."

252 pages, Kindle Edition

First published July 23, 2018

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About the author

Ammar Habib

23 books1,096 followers
Ammar is an award-winning & bestselling author from Lake Jackson, Texas. Ammar enjoys crafting stories that are entertaining and inspirational. Ammar presently resides in his hometown.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,074 reviews
Profile Image for Aaron.
5 reviews
June 13, 2018
Fantastic novel that touches the heart of the reader
I was given an advanced copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. This novel is absolutely heart-wrenching. I was generally aware of what's going on in Syria. However, this story put everything in a different perspective for me. The story focuses on a young teenager, Zaid Kadir, who is separated from his family in Aleppo after it is over run by the rebels. Along with his two best friends, Salman and Fatima, he has to survive the horrors of a war that no child should ever have to face.

The author does a great job of humanizing Zaid. He's a normal 13-year-old boy no different than any American or European kid. He has dreams for the future. He is experiencing his first true crush (maybe even love). He wants to be accepted by his peers. By the author doing that, I felt like I could relate to Zaid at an entirely different level, and I felt like I was in his place. At times, it felt like I could literally feel the bombs dropping and the shooting as Zaid and his friends have to fight to survive time and time again.

Like I've heard the author say, this book isn't about the politics. Instead, it shows the bravery of humanity as we see the people of Aleppo rescuing one another time and time again. We also see humanity at its worst in the form of the rebels, soldiers, and some of Aleppo's citizens who have become lost to the chaos of war.

I truly believe this is a book everyone should read! Not only does it give a better understanding of The Syrian Civil War, but it also helps us understand the plight of the people in war torn regions in a way that we might not otherwise get. Thank you to the author for giving me a copy of this book in advance of its publication!
Profile Image for Mererid Evanna.
265 reviews2 followers
July 30, 2018
This is way out of my comfort zone: I never read books about war or follow news about it. I've mostly heard about the Syrian Civil War in terms of territories being seized or recovered as if they were pieces on a game board. Zaid, the 13-year-old hero of this story, was similarly protected by his parents from unpleasant and worrying news, so it is all the more shocking for him when he is present at the initial assault on his home town of Aleppo. Within an astonishingly short time, this bright, bustling, modern city is reduced to a silent, smoking ruin. Zaid and his friends are separated from their families and struggle to return home to them.

It becomes clear that neither side in the conflict is even considering the civilians caught in the crossfire. They must rely on themselves. Zaid, the dreamer, finds reserves of strength and courage within himself; gentle Fatima calmly treats knife and gunshot wounds; and her older brother Salman shoulders unaccustomed responsibility. I was impressed with the messages of hope and heroism, and with the restrained treatment of religious faith.

I would like to see this book read in schools. It's entirely appropriate for that. It has the excitement of a post-apocalyptic adventure with the sobering knowledge that this destruction actually happened in our lifetime. It powerfully evokes the chaos of war. And also it gives a picture – through flashbacks – of a strong culture and community that our hearts can recognize.
Profile Image for Julia Simpson-Urrutia.
Author 4 books75 followers
June 2, 2018
We have seen the heartrending images of babies crying on missile-shelled, bullet-riddled streets, heard the furor of debate over desperate people seeking shelter from a war-torn country, but rare is the first-person account from a youthful perspective that gives us a window to feel it all up close. This coming-of-age story (realistic fiction) starts with a 13-year-old Syrian boy running for his life through a battle zone to no safety at all.

The narrative then slams backward, to a place any young person will recognize: the classroom and a tedious lesson. The teacher is driving home the message of what Assad’s presidency has meant to the people of Syria. Zaid’s classmate Ahmed is one who, echoing his father, presumes Assad is a great man who helped the economy.

Readers who have not grown up in dictatorships may find it strange that school lessons include whimsical “leader” stories given on a daily basis. Such propaganda is a reality that children in free societies are spared.

Zaid’s life seems normal in the sense that families get up, go to work or school, and come home to eat and sleep, but his 13-year-old neighbor and classmate, Fatima, notices that nine students are absent.

The Heart of Aleppo is a courageous and versatile account of young Zaid, who discovers the “heart” of his home city even as it is destroyed. His life moves from some semblance of normality living over his rug merchant father’s shop to learning how to survive with young Fatima and her brother Salman as adults die around them. Zaid comes to question every notion or tradition that structured his life before chaos. Prefabricated ideas of who and what represent safety fall away as government soldiers and rebels fire through civilians to dominate each other. There is no safety.

Ammar Habib is a prolific young author who skillfully makes a 7,000-year-old city under onslaught come to life. Readers will feel they are running in the rubble and understand what it must mean when there is no way to stay out of a fight—not when it has engulfed an entire country. I strongly recommend this book not only to young readers but school librarians.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
13 reviews
June 1, 2018
Heart-wrenching, powerful story that portrays heroism and hope under the worst circumstances
This is a beautifully written and emotionally charged book that gives its readers a glimpse of the terrible ordeals people in war-torn countries go through. This is not a political tale nor does it take sides in any way. It simply tells the story of an average young man and how his life gets turned upside down when his country and it's government decide war is the only solution to their problems.

This story is told in first-person from the perspective of Zaid, a 13-year-old boy that is no different than any 13-year-old boy you may know. He has plans for a future, he has a crush, he has homework. But everything changes around him when his city becomes a war zone that he and all of the other civilians are stuck inside of.

Ammar Habib's writing and descriptions are so clear and well-written I could feel the destruction around me and hear the battle as it raged. His characters are so real, my heart hurt for Zaid when he was down and soared for him when he was proving how good people could be.

This book truly opened my eyes to things happening in other parts of the world that I'd had no idea about.
Profile Image for Lael Braday.
Author 11 books13 followers
June 5, 2018
Thirteen-year-old Zaid and his friends, siblings Fatima and Salman, leave innocence behind when their parents send them away at rumors of rebel attacks. The teenagers discover that nowhere is safe, as they are besieged repeatedly by rebels, and learn that the military cannot be trusted—they are alone. Strangers sacrifice their lives; strangers betray them; strangers ask for help…evoking survival instincts and humanity’s courage in the darkest hours. They are children, separated from their parents, who must fear multiple, murderous factions and their own government, kids who days ago were living normal teenage lives, as any teenager in any country.

Habib’s portrayal of Syrian teens on the run from death, as well as their daily lives before the war, was supplemented by his friendships with native Syrians and interviews with Syrian refugees for accuracy. His hope is to bring more awareness to the world of a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of civilians who desire only the freedom he enjoys.
Profile Image for Deborah.
54 reviews2 followers
June 2, 2018
This is a very powerful story of a 13 year old who is growing up in Aleppo during war time and is trying to escape the devastation that is fast approaching his home area. Zaid and his two close friends set out to run towards a safer area and we are taken with them on this journey.Habib does an outstanding job of describing what the streets of Aleppo are like during war time. The reader can feel the full effects of the war and the raw emotions of the characters in the book. It is a very powerful read, riveting, and emotional. I’d like to thank the author for providing me an ARC of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Profile Image for Elsbeth.
820 reviews
July 25, 2018
The heart of Aleppo is not the city's centre, it's the people loving and living it.
I'm lucky to say that I don't know what it feels like when, after a normal, carefree childhood, your whole world falls apart. But I think Ammar Habib does a great job describing just that.
Very shocking and touching! And, sadly, realistic story. Not one I will easily forget...

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.
Profile Image for Ammar Habib.
Author 23 books1,096 followers
May 9, 2020
I am very excited for this book's release. It's definitely the most meaningful work I have written thus far as it displays the terrors many people in Syria continue to face. I truly hope readers connect with this work!
Profile Image for Keeley.
11 reviews6 followers
November 7, 2018
A beautiful novel that will stay with me for a long time. Habib managed to write Zaid as a character many people will be able to relate to. A teenage boy with hopes and dreams of the future, who's innocence is quickly destroyed when the first bombs start to fall. The conflicting emotions Zaid experiences about his brother, his family, the military and life in general are put into words beautifully. Thanks to Habib's writing I was able to really picture Aleppo and the destruction that took place. I would definitely recommend this novel to other people to gain more insight of what is going on in Syria and to see things from a different perspective. Rather than all the news coverage we've all seen before, this novel allows us to understand the humanitarian aspect.
August 13, 2020
I was given this ARC by the author in exchange for an honest review:

Wow! That is all I can say. This story absolutely touched my heart. As the premise suggests, this novel follows a young boy, Zaid Kadir, as he is separated from his family in the midst of the Battle of Aleppo. Along with 2 of his friends, he is forced to survive the chaos of war. The book is a balancing act in how it shows the brutality and chaos of war, and helplessness of those caught in the crossfire.

The book's theme seems to be the spirit of humanity and that courage is often found in the darkest times. I really appreciated those messages and the way that Habib showed them. I cannot say much without spoiling the story, but I will say that the ending, along with other parts of the novel, had me in tears.

What I enjoyed about this novel is that it is not about the politics of war, and it chooses to instead focus on the humanity of war's effects. Habib does a good job of showing how Zaid does not fully grasp the politics of the war, as most children would not. The destruction has a very hollow and abandoned tone, and the characters are very relatable even to those who are not familiar with Syria's culture. It's clear that the author's religious background does help him flesh out the characters. I can honestly say that having read this work has given me a better glimpse into the lives of Syria's war refugees.

Thank you to the author for allowing me to read this terrific novel!
Profile Image for Alex Hudson.
3 reviews
May 28, 2020
Devastatingly Powerful

This is a devastatingly powerful read, an emotional roller coaster, and a story I'll never forget. The author hopes to humanize the tragic stories we see on the news from all the wars across the globe, specifically the Syrian Civil War, and he accomplishes that masterfully!

The protagonist, Zaid Kadir, is a normal pre-teen boy living in Aleppo, Syria. He goes to school, has friends, and is in that "awkward" stage of life. He has a crush, wishes he was as cool as some other boys, and looks up to his older brother. But everything changes in one night; everything changes when the City of Aleppo is attacked. Overnight, the peaceful city is turned into a war zone. Zaid is separated from his family, and he must now survive an experience no child should ever go through.

The 1st-person narrative style puts you in Zaid's shoes. We feel his confusion, feel his fear, feel every emotion of loneliness that he experiences. But above all else, we see his transformation. The darkest hours often pull out the best of humanity. Zaid's coming-of-age story happens over the course of a few days. We see him go from the fragile boy and into a young adult, one who realizes that his city is not a place. Now, Aleppo's heart is inside its citizens. And Zaid fights to keep that heart alive, to help the people around him.

The Heart of Aleppo is a courageous and versatile account of young Zaid, who discovers the “heart” of his home city even as it is destroyed. As the chaos grows worse, Zaid comes to question every notion or tradition that structured his life before chaos. Prefabricated ideas of who and what represent safety fall away as government soldiers and rebels fire through civilians to dominate each other. There is no safety. Not anymore.

There is no politics in this story. Just a beautiful tale of the human spirit. Ammar Habib brings this story to life masterfully. I would like to see this book read in schools. It has the excitement of a post-apocalyptic adventure with the sobering knowledge that this destruction actually happened in our lifetime. It evokes the chaos of war and shows how war can wreck entire cities and cultures in the blink of an eye.

With the world we live in, we NEED more stories like this!
Profile Image for Mc Chanster.
405 reviews
May 4, 2020
This book was absolutely gut-wrenching, and one that everybody should read. Beautifully written, the author weaves his tale around Zaid, a 13-year-old Syrian boy whose life changes in a single night.

Like many other boys his age, Zaid worries about school, has a crush, and would much rather play with his friends than doing homework. He loves and respects his family, and dreams of being a doctor – if only he could learn to stop daydreaming in class! All was well, until one night, he is roused from sleep and hustled into a car with his two friends, Salman and his sister, Fatima. They are to be sent away because danger was coming soon, and leaving the Aleppo was the only possible way to keep them safe. Unfortunately, they never arrive at their destination and together, they embark on a journey of courage, bravery and determination.

I just… LOVE this book. It’s beautiful, emotional, and so well done. The author pulls you right into all of it and I felt like I was with Zaid, Salman and Fatima while they faced rebels and soldiers, bullets and bombs. There is absolutely zero hidden agenda in this book – it’s not about politics, or religion, or swaying the reader to choose a side. Instead, it’s about finding humanity and courage in the face of adversity.

I would love to see this in libraries everywhere. It’s extremely relevant and completely approachable for middle school and older. Just an absolutely wonderful book and one hundred percent recommended to everybody.

**I got a copy of Heart of Aleppo from the author and Voracious Readers Online for an honest review**
Profile Image for Stacy Bosse.
41 reviews
September 9, 2018
The Syrian Civil War is a topic I admittedly don’t know much about, so I learned a few tragic things from reading the book. More importantly than the true events this book describes, I was able to sympathize with the characters, regardless of the cultural differences. I’m an 8th grade teacher, and I plan on purchasing more copies of this and adding them to my classroom library for my students to read. My students can learn a lot about what real courage is by reading this book.
Profile Image for Denise.
6,454 reviews104 followers
December 13, 2018
Told through the eyes of a 13-year-old boy, The Heart of Aleppo brings alive the horrors of the Syrian Civil War. With their home city of Aleppo turned into a war zone over night in 2012, Zaid and his two closest friends struggle to survive amidst the violence in the streets.
A short novel that packs an intense punch. Powerful, timely and important, infused with a defiant sense of hope in the face of death and destruction. Read it.
5 reviews
August 2, 2018
Wow! What a read. It really touched my soul as I read about how Zaid and his friends had to endure what no child should ever have to go through. I think everybody living in first-world countries should read this book to get a better understanding of what people in war-torn nations are experiencing.
Profile Image for Faith.
3 reviews
June 11, 2020
A Must Read

I have to tell you that this has a very difficult review to write for me & to dignify with the respect it deserves. The stories and reality of a war torn Syria and the desperation of their beautiful people fleeing and seeking refuge is something that truly affects me, often, in real life. I have so much compassion for these people and stories I have heard of their journeys have truly impacted my heart.

I had to stop-start this book several times. While I could have finished it in a day, my emotions physically wouldn’t allow me to.

Through this book is a work of fiction - these stories HAPPEN & are real. These wars are real. There are people every day whose homes have been destroyed in the worst types of brutality, grabbing their children and boarding a rubber boat to cross unforgiving seas just for the TINIEST chance that it could save them; that it could spare them.

I believe this book should be read in schools. Be read by everyone. And by anyone who needs a reminder of how lucky they are. This book will stay with me forever & I will pray every day that we never feel the fear or loss that they have.
Profile Image for Sierra.
3 reviews
April 9, 2020
I really enjoyed reading this book because it demonstrated what life was like in a different part of the world, and it also showed how people support each other like they are family even though they aren't family. We see the power of the human spirit, and the power of hope and courage. Though it's a coming-of-age story and a hero's journey for Zaid Kadir, it is so much more. In today's world, this is the sort of book that must be read.
Profile Image for Paige.
1,723 reviews79 followers
August 26, 2018
Disclaimer: I got this book on Kindle Unlimited. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 4/5

Publication Date: July 26th, 2018

Genre: Fiction

Recommended Age: 16+ (violence, slight gore, some mature themes)

Pages: 252

Author Website

Amazon Link

Synopsis: After standing for over 7,000 years, Aleppo's ruin came overnight.
Separated from his family during the night the rebels attacked the city, thirteen-year-old Zaid Kadir is lost in the middle of a war zone. Alongside his friends, he is forced to survive the dangers of a civil war he does not even fully understand. Zaid witnesses the destruction of the brutal Syrian Civil War as it grows more deadly by the day and rips his city apart. However, as he braves this destruction, as he desperately tries to survive this catastrophe, he discovers something. Zaid realizes that it is in the darkest hours when humanity's spirit of hope burns brightest.

For the most part I thought this book was beautifully well written and I thought the message behind the book was really powerful and present throughout the book. I felt that the world building was really well done as well and that overall the plot was really well developed and entertaining.

However, I do feel like this book exhausted me? Like it felt too dramatic at times and I feel like I’ve run a marathon with how emotional this book was.

Verdict: Emotional to a fault?
Profile Image for Les.
3 reviews
November 18, 2019
This is by far the most saddest book I have ever read.

Incredibly written with voices that reach beyond the page. My heart shattered into a trillion pieces - page after page of overwhelming heartache. Millions of displaced people. Some completely alone. Loss of Life, loss of family, loss of home, loss of self.

Beautiful, intelligent, insight-fully touching.

I wish the entire planet could read this and should be compulsory in schools. Particularly for those that can't understand why they come, where the borders are stretched beyond comprehension.
Everyone deserves to live without fear. To have access to basic human necessities. The unimaginable pain refugees have suffered.
To understand that human connection and understanding is the only difference separating "us" and complete annihilation.
The anguish and despondency is inconceivable.

I rate this book a TRILLION stars - the corresponding amount to the shattered pieces of my heart.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
11 reviews
April 10, 2020
The news reports from Syria have given the world heart breaking pictures of the children who suffer from the civil war. This book has helped to put a face and story to some of those children. Horrifying, vivid descriptions as well as strong, loving friendships creates a memorable fictional story that will keep you up at night wondering why the world has done nothing to help. Zaid and his friends will stay with me for a long time.
June 19, 2019
The book deals with an important topic which has been in the news very frequently. What has not been in the news were the people who suffered during that time. This book is fictitious - the plot is fictitious but the people and their stories are real.

The story is a story about human spirit and going on in life even though the chances and hopes may amount to nothing. The writing made me connect with the characters more and I feel that it made me visualize the story even better. The author paints a good picture of the Aleppo - before and after war in the minds of the readers, which helps to enjoy and understand the story more.

Hope and sacrifice are main themes as they relate to freedom. Your life is deemed of no value if you don't have your rights and freedom. All these rights and freedom are taken away during war and what one has to face is beyond imaginable! The author also focuses on the fact that how children are the ones most affected during the crisis. They are robbed off their childhood and happiness, most of them lose their parents and some even their lives.

I feel this book is on an important topic everyone should read about to understand the pain and suffering one goes through during a war crisis.
Profile Image for Jane.
893 reviews18 followers
November 5, 2019
As with most war stories, the story told in The Heart of Aleppo is heartbreaking. Ammar Habib does a great job with the voice of a 13-year-old enduring the destruction of Aleppo during the Syrian Civil War. One of the things that impressed me was Habib’s ability to tell the story without including the politics of the war. It is truly a story of the spirit of humanity in difficult circumstances.
While it is a very sad story and hard to read in many ways, I was compelled to keep reading to find out what was coming next. Main character Zaid shows growth and maturity beyond that of most of the 13-year-olds I know - but then none of the 13-year-olds I know have had to face their home town being destroyed by war.
I think The Heart of Aleppo would be a great addition to a current events unit or Middle East study. This young adult novel should be read by today’s teens to help them better understand the world we live in as well as a glimpse of Muslim beliefs.
I would not hesitate to add The Heart of Aleppo to my k-12 Christian school library.
I want to thank Prism Book Tours for the complimentary copy of The Heart of Aleppo. This is my honest review.
Profile Image for Tara.
3 reviews
April 17, 2020
THE HEART OF ALEPPO was so sad and moving and hopeful. It was such a good story. It actually reminded me a lot of The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. There are some similar plot points and themes. I also learned a lot about a time period and region I did not know much about. There is a so much heartbreak and awfulness in this novel. But there is also a lot of love and loyalty and endurance as well. All the tragedy and hope does create a splendid story. And yes, I cried at the end. The last line got me!
2 reviews
July 14, 2018
This is a great book to read, making you believe you are actually there with Zaid. So well written that I’m still thinking about it the morning after I finished it. It really drives home what is happening in the world which we don’t see or hear about and we forget about, whether intentionally or not. Well done Ammar for writing it so well, I could have read more, perhaps the ending could be different with Zaid going on to follow his dreams???
Profile Image for Bruce K..
6 reviews
June 12, 2019
I could not turn away from this story. The way in which the author weaves together the intimate thoughts of the characters with the outward atrocities of a war torn country is astounding. As you enter into the journey of the beautiful and fiercely brave souls, your heart is overwhelmed with empathy and emotion. "The Heartof Aleppo" is a phenomenal story. A tale that should be discussed and shared. Five well deserved, if not more, stars. Well done, Ammar Habib.
Profile Image for Sarah Rayner.
3 reviews
July 6, 2018
Moving tale of how war effects children! I have seen the war reported on the news, but this book really brings it home how it has affected families on a day to day basis. There is no mention of the politics of the war, just the story of group of children. Highly recommend read!
Profile Image for Gracie Bustillos.
202 reviews3 followers
August 4, 2018
Wow Awesome

This is a powerful story. It portrays a heartbreaking, heroism and hope under the most horrible situations This story is a must read. Reading the book made me feel like I was actually there. Awesome writing Ammar.
Profile Image for Gabriella.
3 reviews
March 7, 2020
5 stars

Although not an easy read, I was taken in by the beautiful prose and message of The Heart of Aleppo. Don't let the troubling subject matter turn you away from this excellent book. I finished reading it several weeks ago and expect to reflect on it for a long time.

This is a devastating story of loss and living with hope. Well done, touching, inspiring and maddening at the reality of the story. A truly gorgeous book. I cried throughout at the trauma and connection these characters experienced. I'll never forget this story.
Profile Image for Isabella.
3 reviews
April 16, 2020
From the moment I started reading this novel, I knew it would be challenging for me to close it after I finished reading. The Syrian War is something I knew about, but this novel brings it to life. This book may be merely fiction, but it makes everything seem so real that I would never be able to tell the difference if I didn't know that it was fictional. It delivers an eerie theme of how a single event can lead to many other events, eventually collapsing the lives of ordinary people. I am so glad I stumbled upon this novel. It's the most well-written realistic fiction novel I have ever read.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,074 reviews

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