cover image Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero

Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero

Saadia Faruqi. Quill Tree, $16.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-294325-5

Quiet, bespectacled, robot-loving Pakistani American Yusuf Azeem, who is almost 12, is excited to start the sixth grade—until a series of ominous notes appears in his locker. Yusuf’s family is one of 11 Muslim families in the small town of Frey, Tex., and the Islamophobia, xenophobia, and racism the family has faced have only intensified in the weeks leading up to the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Ethan Grant is Yusuf’s nemesis: he’s a vicious bully and the son of a white nationalist who opposes the construction of a town mosque. Yusuf tries to keep his head down, but when Ethan accuses him of carrying a bomb in his backpack—actually a micro:bit “virtual cat”—and Yusuf suffers repercussions, he gathers his friends to take on Ethan and his hateful father. Faruqi (A Thousand Questions) effectively intersperses Yusuf’s narrative with his maternal uncle’s journal entries from 2001; these epistolary interludes, written when Yusuf’s uncle was 12, are particularly powerful, capturing the raw emotions of American Muslims at the time and serving to reinforce the importance of learning unwhitewashed histories in this timely, hopeful middle grade novel. Ages 8–12. Agent: Kari Sutherland, Bradford Literary. (Sept.)