Twelve-year-old Amal has few options as a girl growing up in a Pakistani village in a patriarchal society dominated by a ruthless ruling family who keeps villagers indefinitely indebted.
Tired of all the restrictions placed on her, one day Amal impulsively goes to the market alone. She meets with calamity when she stands up for herself against someone who hurt her and is trying to take advantage of her. Unbeknownst to her, the person she opposes is a member of the ruling Khan family.
Amal is torn from her home and forced to work on the Khan estate to pay off her family’s debt. After conversations with the other indentured servants, she realizes that her debt will never be paid off because of the injustice of the system. She becomes convinced that her destiny is to remain at the estate forever in a prison that daily crushes her dream of becoming a teacher.
In a surprising turn of events, Amal and the other servants learn information that could possibly bring down the Khan family. Though the eventuality seems slim, Amal asks, “Just because something seems impossible, does that mean we just don’t try?” With the help of a new friend, Amal realizes that in every situation people have a choice to take action or to stand idly by.
This captivating, realistic, yet hopeful juvenile novel accomplishes what author Aisha Saeed set out to do. She shows that ordinary people who aren’t making the headlines, many young girls among them, are nevertheless changing the world for the better. In author’s notes, she writes, “Everything we do in our communities and beyond to impart good is important and matters.” Ages 10 and up. (Nancy Paulsen Books)