Full Text Reviews:
Bulletin for the Center... - 02/01/2014 At twelve, Ariana can’t cook traditional Afghan meals, she moves more like a galloping horse than a dignified lady, and she inevitably makes a mess when stocking the pistachio bins at her family’s grocery store, the titular Kabul Corner. Unfortunately, her cousin Laila flips pancakes like a pro, veritably glides when she walks, and never spills anything. Worst of all, Ariana must share everything with Laila, who has recently arrived from Afghanistan: her cramped California bedroom, her sixth-grade class, and even her best friend. When a series of accidents rocks Kabul Corner and a neighboring store, Ariana suspects that someone is trying to scare away the plaza’s tenants. She finds an ally in Laila, and soon the girls and their friends are on the case to save Kabul Corner. In her second novel, Senzai ambitiously explores family dynamics and preteen preoccupations alongside immigration, Middle East politics, and even disabilities (Ariana has a mild sensory processing disorder). Though explanations of weightier issues verge on the conspicuous, the book maintains a fairly light touch when helping young readers understand Ariana and her family’s culture, keeping these details in the background and wisely allowing the mystery plot to take center stage. Thoughtfully written, with just the right amount of hint-dropping to get readers guessing, this engaging story features immigrants, minorities, and complex political issues while credibly treating the thoughts and feelings of a twelve-year old girl and the bonds of family. This is one for any preteen interested in the broader world, or just navigating the one at home. AA - Copyright 2014 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
Booklist - 02/01/2014 Despite a bevy of parallel plots and some improbably neat resolutions, middle-grade readers should enjoy this multicultural suburban mystery. Twelve-year-old Ariana’s happy life starts to go awry when her cousin Laila arrives from Afghanistan, full of cultural charm, perfect manners, and a bilingual fluency that makes adults coo and Ariana cringe—and even sweeps away Ariana’s best friend. To make matters worse, the cute new boy in school is from a rival family of Ariana’s: his father opens up a new Afghani grocery store in the same strip mall, and just like that an old feud between the families is resurrected. When both stores are vandalized, the children unite, and with some clever sleuthing they unravel the mystery and put the feud to rest. Adolescent misconceptions, Taliban kidnapping, and local Fremont politics swirl together to interrupt any notions readers may have about sleepy suburban life. A touch of romance provides a satisfying fairy-tale ending. - Copyright 2014 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 02/01/2014 Gr 4–6—Twelve-year-old Ariana is Califonia tomboy who dreams of having a room of her own. When her polite, pretty, perfect cousin Laila arrives from Afghanistan and steals Ariana's best friend and her personal space, she is less than thrilled. To make matters worse, the family store, Kabul Corner, is vandalized and business is going terribly. When a rival Afghan grocery opens up nearby and a decades-old feud between the two stores is reignited, Ariana must learn to get along with her cousin and her family's enemy in order to solve the mystery of who is sabotaging their livelihoods. While this title is not quite as fast paced as Senzai's Shooting Kabul (S & S, 2010), the mystery coupled with Ariana's struggles in middle school will keep readers interested. Several characters from Shooting Kabul return, but this companion title can be enjoyed on its own. Ariana's voice is relatable and her feelings of unsureness and frustration will be familiar to readers. While all of the main characters share an immigrant experience to some degree, the different struggles that each character faces makes for a more nuanced and compelling read. It is refreshing to see such a vastly multicultural cast in children's literature, and no character is portrayed as stereotypical or overly generalized. The glossary of terms in the back is also a nice touch. Recommended for any fan of multicultural literature or realistic fiction.—Ellen Norton, White Oak Library District, Crest Hill, IL - Copyright 2014 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.