When I read the book description for Out of Nowhere
, I was really looking forward to reading it. I thought the novel would be a good learning experience...to find out more about Somalian refugees, the fears and hardships they faced in their own country, and their hopes for the future in finding a safe place and being able to start anew. Much to my surprise, while the author does depict this to some extent, it is not really the central focus of the novel.
For such a small book, Out of Nowhere
crams many different themes from dating to choosing colleges, to family pressures and the all important need to win, to the lost boy spiraling to his ruin, to issues concerning religion and cyber-bullying. There are so many different ideas and stories competing in this novel that I don’t feel that they get the chance to be fully explored. Often times some of these themes are used solely to drive the plot along and are subsequently dropped to the background out of sight, without getting a true resolution—e.g. the relationship between Alex Rhodes and his father and the author’s choice of using Donnie as the means to draw out the major conflicts that occur throughout the novel.
Much of the story takes place outside of the main action and progression of Tom’s story, which in turn negatively affects the novel’s characterization. The characters somehow feel incomplete, mere shadows of what they could have been, especially in regards to the Somalian kids—Saeed and his sister, Samera. This is in part due to the author’s decision to tell the story through the eyes of one of her characters. The reader sees only what Tom sees. This would have been a good choice on the author’s part had she chosen to focus her story on one theme. A limited point of view simply doesn’t do justice to the various stories Padian tries to tell. As written, both the characters and their various stories fall flat.
Overall, for a novel that promised to bring a topic not commonly found in young adult literature to the forefront, Out of Nowhere
could have been a much stronger work.