3 stars

“Stories are powerful, but gather too many of the words of others in your heart and they will drown out your own. Remember that”

-Zeyn Joukhadar

It is 2011, and Nour’s father has just passed away from cancer. Her mother does not know how to recover with the loss of her husband, and moves her family from New York City to Syria to be closer to family. However, the Syria the family arrives to is not the Syria they remembered. Violence is increasing everyday, with threats of bombing, shooting, and protests constantly looming over them. After a shell destroys Nour’s home, the family decides to pack up their things and join the refugees crossing the Middle East into Europe.
800 years earlier, Rawiya is desperate to see the world and help her widowed mother. Dressed like a boy, Rawiya joins a world famous map-maker tasked with creating a map of the world. However, she has no idea whats in store as she fights many beasts and thieves as they travel through The Middle East.

I want to start off by saying I really do feel bad for giving this book 3 stars. I think that the story is incredibly important and more Americans should be informed of the Syrian Refugee Crisis. I know I knew next to nothing about it before starting this book, and I know others are in the same situation. Because of that, I don’t feel like I can rate it less than 3 stars, even though this book really wasn’t for me.

There wasn’t a specific reason I didn’t care for this book, I just don’t think it was my cup of tea. The writing style was beautiful, describing all the scenes in the story with gorgeous imagery. I would definitely be willing to give this author another shot for that alone.

I think the biggest reason this book didn’t work for me was the duel timeline. I am a sucker for a duel timeline that works well, but for me this one didn’t. I didn’t really see any connection between the two characters, besides the fact they were in the same place. Nour’s point of view seemed very realistic, while Rawiya’s almost felt like fantasy. I was much more invested in Nour’s part of the story and because of that found myself becoming less engaged during Rawiya’s perspective. Duel perspectives are done best when they complement one another, and in this novel I felt like they were distracting one another from each other, and Rawiya’s story was almost like a page filler.

I also didn’t know that this book was being told from a 12-year-old’s perspective. Because of that, I felt like novel walking a fine line between middle grade and general fiction. Many sentences were very blunt, like a middle grade novel, but the content was definitely more leaned towards adults. It was a weird mix and I couldn’t quite tell how I felt about it. Along with that, the characters in this book definitely did not speak like children. Nour would be complaining and then suddenly spit out a huge metaphor about the sea and stars and I was like… where did that come from??

Lastly, I don’t feel like the characters really engrossed me the way they should have. Nour was well developed, but I felt like the other characters weren’t. I was constantly confusing Nour’s sisters because they were so similar, and I could tell you virtually nothing about any characters in Rawiya’s story.

Like I said earlier, give this book a shot if you are interested! This story is very important and needs to be shared. I did learn a lot about the Syrian Refugee Crisis while reading this, and it did warm my heart to read about a family who would go to the ends of the Earth for each other. I would definitely recommend the physical book over the audiobook. If I had a physical copy, maybe I would have been able to force my mind to focus more on the story, but since I didn’t, the audiobook just didn’t keep my attention.

Hope this helped and happy reading!

One thought on “Review: The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhadar

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