Internment by Samira Ahmed
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia
Publishing Info: March 2019 by Atom
Star Rating: 3/5
Back Cover Summary:
Rebellions are built on hope.
Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.
With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.
Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.
Having seen the description for this book, I just had to buy it. The idea drew me in right away because of its relevance. Negative attitudes towards Muslims have sadly become more prominent lately, which is completely unfair. This book imagines what could happen if the situation in America escalated, and shows how quickly things can change. I wanted to love this book. It had so much promise, but I was a little disappointed. Although I felt it could have been better, it was also incredibly shocking, as well as moving and heartbreaking.
Rather than being set in a far-flung ultra-futuristic setting, Internment is set in a near future that unfortunately you can really believe could actually happen. I think it being near future makes it more terrifying. So many dystopias are set in a distant future that feels a long way away, like something that wouldn’t happen for a while. But sadly you can imagine this happening now. The book tackles big issues such as Islamophobia and illegal detainment, and it’s so good to see serious subject matter explored in young adult fiction.
The opening few chapters had me completely hooked. I really felt in Layla’s shoes, experiencing her thoughts and emotions. The fear and suspense was brilliant. However, Ahmed didn’t quite manage to sustain that through the rest of the book. While it was good, it wasn’t great.
The Director was very under-developed as a villain. He became a bit of a caricature. Almost comic, actually, rather than scary and intimidating as he should have come across. There was also a lack of intimidating presence from the guards. They were just sort of always there in the background, and I felt the author could have used the constant threat of their presence more to further present the sense of fear in the camp.
In terms of the execution and writing, the dialogue was a bit clunky in places. More depth and subtlety could also have helped the description and wording have more impact, rather than the author just throwing stuff in your face. Yes in places being blunt is really effective, but some more subtle touches mixed in could have made the book even better. There isn’t enough nuance to really pull it off.
This book does have flaws, but it’s such an important and relevant book. The execution lets it down. Even so, people need to read it. People need to open their eyes and see how wrong it is to treat people like this because of their religion. Will we never learn from the mistakes of the past?