November 13th, 2016 by Karen
As you guys know from my other book reviews, I love a good mystery that doesn’t involve violence. Don’t get me wrong, I like to be kept guessing. But that doesn’t mean I need kidnappings, fights, and action on every single page.
Saving Kabul Corner by N.H. Senzai fits the bill perfectly. Even though there’s no threat of physical harm, the stakes involved in the mystery are still extremely high: Someone seems intent on putting the main character’s family store out of business, and they will lose their livelihood unless Ariana can find the culprit. Forget about the new house they were planning to move into (where Ariana could finally have her own bedroom again); if the store closes, they’ll have trouble just paying the regular bills every month.
Of course, Ariana is not about to let that happen, so she teams up with her best friend, Mariam, as well as two unlikely allies:
- Ally #1: Her cousin, Laila, whom Ariana can’t stand. Ever since Laila and her mom came from Afghanistan to live with Ariana’s family, everyone has compared the two girls — and Ariana hates constantly being told she’s not as well-behaved or graceful as Laila.
- Ally #2: Waleed, whose family owns the rival Afghani grocery store that just opened in the same plaza as Kabul Corner. Even though everybody believes that it’s actually this other store behind Kabul Corner’s troubles, Ariana isn’t so sure — and Waleed definitely wants to prove his family isn’t involved.
It’s totally absorbing to watch Ariana and her team try to figure out who is behind the sabotage and bring them to justice. Even without fast-paced action/adventure, I couldn’t wait to turn each page and see what happened next.
That’s why I’d recommend this book for fans of other mysteries grounded in real-world family and school life — like Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick, Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald, and The Map Trap by Andrew Clements.
I also enjoyed reading about the characters’ lives, including their ties to Afghanistan — both cultural (like traditions Ariana is expected to follow) and physical (like Laila’s father, who is still living in Afghanistan until he can join his family in the United States).
In the coming weeks and months, you’ll probably be hearing a lot about immigration on the news and at school; if you like learning about Laila and Mariam’s stories in Saving Kabul Corner, I highly encourage you to seek out other books about immigrants in America — such as Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai and Behind the Mountain by Edwidge Danticat (both fiction) and This Land Is Our Land by Linda Barrett Osborne and Kids Like Me: Voices of the Immigrant Experience (both nonfiction).
Also, Saving Kabul Corner has a companion book called Shooting Kabul. The story in Shooting Kabul actually takes place before the story in Saving Kabul Corner, but this is not a series, so you can read the books in either order!
But back to another aspect of Saving Kabul Corner that I enjoyed, given how much I love eating… Do you shop at a grocery store that specializes in food from another country? Leave a comment and share what you like to buy!
Karen loves buying snacks from Asian grocery stores. In particular, the sweets remind her of the treats she would get from her grandma as a kid. She’s also a sucker for all the savory crunchy snacks at the Indian grocery — they’re even better than potato chips (see this post for pics)!