The White Zone

White Zone145003966The White  Zone

Carolyn Marsden, author

CarolRhoda Books, Fiction,  January 2012

Suitable for:  Ages 10-14

Themes:  Iraqi War, Inner War, Families torn apart, Miracle

Carolyn Marsden takes us to Baghdad, after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2008.   Iraq is no longer at war with America.  But the Iraqi people are raging an inner war of their own between the Sunnis and Shiites.   She shows us this war through the lives of two young cousins, Nouri and Talib, who barely remember a time when there weren’t tanks and gunfire.   Nouri is Shiite and Talib is half Sunni and Shiite.   The conflict between the two sects is tearing their country and their family a part.  After Nouri’s uncle is killed in a bombing by the Sunnis, he begins to see Talib differently.   Even though Nouri and Talib were close, Nouri turns on his cousin in a hateful way and his actions divide the family.  Talib’s family leave their home and extended family for safety near Mutanabbi Street, where both Sunnis and Shiites get along for a while.   But, even roadside bombers attack Mutanabbi Street.  Only a miracle can mend the conflict between the cousins.  That miracle arrived in the form of snow — the only snow that ever fell in Baghdad in living memory.  For one day, people raised their eyes to the sky and fighting ceased.  There were no red or green zones, only a white zone.

Why I Like This Book:  Carolyn Marsden tells a memorable and compelling story that teaches young readers about different cultures and war through the eyes of two young boys.  Nouri and Talib are casualties of war.  Although conflict erupts between the cousins, Marsden delicately shows their inner struggle with fear, grief, hate, and confusion.  The cousins have to figure out their relationship on their own.  It is their  love of family and faith which influences their choices.  This is a powerful novel with the right balance of tension.