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The Book of Jonas
In Stephen Dau’s first novel, a 15-year-old boy is rescued by an American soldier in an unidentified Muslim country and brought to the Pittsburgh area as a war refugee. Dau was one of the four featured writers in a debut authors panel at PLA last week. Moderator Barbara Hoffert called his novel “brave, heartrending, and expertly written.” Our own reviewer calls it “brilliant.”
As mentioned on the author’s homepage, The Book of Jonas is a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick this season.
DAU, Stephen. The Book of Jonas. 272p. Blue Rider. 2012. Tr $24.95. ISBN 978-0399158452. LC 2011047494.
Adult/High School–The most banal of circumstances spared 15-year-old Younis from being annihilated with the rest of his family during an attack on his village by American troops tracking terrorists. Severely wounded, he escapes to a cave in the mountains where he is cared for by an American soldier who deserted during the fight. He survives and is relocated to the U.S. by a relief organization. He changes his name to Jonas and pursues a college education. During counseling sessions to help with Post-Traumatic Stress issues, he struggles with survivor’s guilt, excessive alcohol use, and the repressed memories of his time in the cave with the American soldier. Slowly, he pieces together recollections that add to the horror of his survival. First-time author Dau creates a disturbing portrayal of war as it destroys ideals and innocence and makes victims of civilians and soldiers alike. The novel is composed in a way that’s similar to how a painter creates with watercolors: with delicate, barely substantive layers that blend together to reveal depth, nuance, and meaning. Jonas is an orphan and an outcast longing for home and love, but he is also Muslim, yearning to avenge the loss of his family. That teen readers will be drawn to him even as they are repulsed by his choices is one of the ways Dau demonstrates the tragic paradoxes of war in this brilliant and deceptively simple novel that will provide ample discussion for high school classes studying Middle East conflicts.–John Sexton, Greenburgh Public Library, NY
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About Angela Carstensen
Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.
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