The cover is both hopeful and haunting. The same can be said for the story. Twelve-year-old Amal lives with her family in a Pakistani village. Another family rules the town and have control of all the residents—most of whom are in financial debt to the Khan’s. The law they go by is their own and it’s a do it our way or suffer the consequences.

Amal loves school and her family, but family comes first as she stays home to help her pregnant mother who will soon give birth to another child. One day Amal has an unfortunate encounter with Jawad, the egotistical son of the ruling family. Her so called disrespect leads to a sentence of being a servant at the family’s mansion. She’s pulled away from friends, family, and a teacher she adores. Amal discovers her temporary servitude could turn into a lifelong ordeal.

I was glad to find a first person narration here as Amal gives the story heart. She’s stronger than any of those who are in charge. Amal wants to do what’s right and stay out of trouble, but deep down she knows none of it is fair. Adult readers might prefer a longer, more in-depth study of the politics going on here, but for the intended audience it is a perfect look at another culture and how being a kid can be so different depending on where you live.



AMAL UNBOUND by Aisha Saeed

  1. Short chapters are a welcome pull to bring in emerging readers who may be looking for brevity, along with teachers who only have five minutes left at the end of a class period to read a chapter out loud.
  2. I doubt real world events would end on such a promising note, but doing so here gives much inspiration and hope.
  3. The power of reading comes through as a theme loud and clear, especially when Amal teaches another young servant the basic skills to untangle the written word.
  4. The author supplies Discussion Guides and other resources on her website. It goes beyond what is usually provided. Well done! (See them here!)
  5. A compelling story about indentured servitude and the strength it takes to overcome. You’ll remember this one long after reading.


But did it really have to be this way? If I were a boy, would I be staying home to fold laundry and iron clothes? If I were a son, would he so casually tell me to forget my dreams?


Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when–as the eldest daughter–she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens–after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.

Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal–especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (From Aisha’s Website)

Aisha Saeed is a New York Times bestselling author. She wrote WRITTEN IN THE STARS (Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books, 2015) which was listed as a best book of 2015 by Bank Street Books and a 2016 YALSA Quick Pick For Reluctant Readers. She is also the author of the middle grade novel AMAL UNBOUND (Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books, 2018) a Summer 2018 Indie Next Pick, An Amazon Best Book of the Month, has received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus and is a Global Read Aloud for 2018. She also has a forthcoming picture book BILAL COOKS DAAL (Simon & Schuster/Salaam Reads, 2019). Aisha is also a founding member of the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books™. She has been featured on MTV, the Huffington Post, NBC, and the BBC, and her writings have appeared in publications including the journal ALAN and the Orlando Sentinel.

Aisha is represented by Taylor Martindale at Full Circle Literary Agency and lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and three sons.


If you have time, please comment below.

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
This entry was posted in Middle Grade Book Reviews and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to AMAL UNBOUND

  1. You make this sound irresistible. I do love the cover, too. I will be looking for this one. Thanks for the review.

  2. Janet Smart says:

    This does sound like a good one, Greg. And, I like you favorite lines. Thanks for the review.

  3. I agree with Rosi. You are really making me want to read this intense story. And the cover is compelling too.

  4. I am so glad you loved this book. I enjoyed reading your comments. You are right, Amal’s story does stay with you. I was hoping it would place as a finalist in the Cybils. It is such an important topic and relevant in our country.

  5. That is such an amazing cover! I’m glad you said the story has a hopeful ending, because I’m not sure I could read it if it didn’t. I love that Amal teaches someone to read.

  6. This was such a great book. My daughter and I both enjoyed it! I have a review and author spotlight on my blog if you want to have a read.

  7. I read WRITTEN IN THE STARS, so I can imagine this one is equally powerful. That one certainly gave me much to think about! Thanks for sharing. I’ll add AMAL UNBOUND to my TBR list.

  8. This sounds like an interesting story about a region of the world I have not read about in children’s literature. Thank you for sharing this title with us for MMGM.

  9. Pingback: The 2019 Golden Cup Awards | Always in the Middle…

Place your thoughts here with a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.