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A mesmerizing novel in verse about family, identity, and finding yourself in the most unexpected places--for fans of The Poet X, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, and Jason Reynolds. Nima doesn't feel understood. By her mother, who grew up far away in a different land. By her suburban town, which makes her feel too much like an outsider to fit in and not enough like a A mesmerizing novel in verse about family, identity, and finding yourself in the most unexpected places--for fans of The Poet X, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, and Jason Reynolds. Nima doesn't feel understood. By her mother, who grew up far away in a different land. By her suburban town, which makes her feel too much like an outsider to fit in and not enough like an outsider to feel like that she belongs somewhere else. At least she has her childhood friend Haitham, with whom she can let her guard down and be herself.Until she doesn't. As the ground is pulled out from under her, Nima must grapple with the phantom of a life not chosen, the name her parents didn't give her at birth: Yasmeen. But that other name, that other girl, might just be more real than Nima knows. And more hungry.And the life Nima has, the one she keeps wishing were someone else's. . .she might have to fight for it with a fierceness she never knew she had. Nothing short of magic...One of the best writers of our times.-- Elizabeth Acevedo, New York Times Bestselling author of The Poet X


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A mesmerizing novel in verse about family, identity, and finding yourself in the most unexpected places--for fans of The Poet X, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, and Jason Reynolds. Nima doesn't feel understood. By her mother, who grew up far away in a different land. By her suburban town, which makes her feel too much like an outsider to fit in and not enough like a A mesmerizing novel in verse about family, identity, and finding yourself in the most unexpected places--for fans of The Poet X, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, and Jason Reynolds. Nima doesn't feel understood. By her mother, who grew up far away in a different land. By her suburban town, which makes her feel too much like an outsider to fit in and not enough like an outsider to feel like that she belongs somewhere else. At least she has her childhood friend Haitham, with whom she can let her guard down and be herself.Until she doesn't. As the ground is pulled out from under her, Nima must grapple with the phantom of a life not chosen, the name her parents didn't give her at birth: Yasmeen. But that other name, that other girl, might just be more real than Nima knows. And more hungry.And the life Nima has, the one she keeps wishing were someone else's. . .she might have to fight for it with a fierceness she never knew she had. Nothing short of magic...One of the best writers of our times.-- Elizabeth Acevedo, New York Times Bestselling author of The Poet X

30 review for Home Is Not a Country

  1. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Acevedo

    So lucky to have read this novel in advance! Safia's verse is awe-inspiring and the world she's built is lush and wonderous. So lucky to have read this novel in advance! Safia's verse is awe-inspiring and the world she's built is lush and wonderous.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Acevedo

    So lucky to have read this novel in advance! Safia's verse is awe-inspiring and the world she's built is lush and wonderous. So lucky to have read this novel in advance! Safia's verse is awe-inspiring and the world she's built is lush and wonderous.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elle

    I am about the furthest thing from an expert on poetry. I have no idea what would be considered “good” and “bad” structure, rhythm, verse—any of it. So this is probably not going to be the best review to read if you’re looking for that kind of analysis. Instead I can offer what a layman may think about this type of writing. I can recognize that something sounds nice but maybe not be able to articulate why. Also since this is a novel in verse as opposed to a collection of poetry, there’s a flowing I am about the furthest thing from an expert on poetry. I have no idea what would be considered “good” and “bad” structure, rhythm, verse—any of it. So this is probably not going to be the best review to read if you’re looking for that kind of analysis. Instead I can offer what a layman may think about this type of writing. I can recognize that something sounds nice but maybe not be able to articulate why. Also since this is a novel in verse as opposed to a collection of poetry, there’s a flowing narrative throughout that I think most people would be able to follow along with. So I’m going to be reviewing that story and how it’s related to the reader, not so much the prose itself. Hopefully some people still find that helpful. The first part of the novel follows Nima, a teenage girl living in the United States with her mother, an immigrant from an unnamed Arabic-speaking country. (The author describes the country’s flag as red, green, white & black, and there are likely other markers which would clarify the specific country, but I wasn’t able to pick up on any of them. Safia Elhillo’s parents emigrated from Sudan, but it seems to be an intentional choice not to name their nation of origin, so I didn’t make that assumption with regards to Nima.) Nima has a lot of the same insecurities of other teenagers, like loneliness and feeling like an outsider, but she’s also struggling in ways many of her peers can’t relate to. Both her and her childhood friend, Haitham, are living in a post-9/11 America. Nima is called a terrorist, mocked for her religion, bullied, shunned and harassed by her classmates and strangers alike. She finds herself daydreaming of an alter-ego version of herself, who Nima thinks of as Yasmeen, and disconnects from her life in the US by imagining what could have been if her mother hadn’t left her homeland. Then around halfway through the story it changes into something else entirely. Nima enters a kind of dream-like state where she gets to watch her parents when they were young, before she was born, alongside her mirror self Yasmeen. This was a turn I wasn’t expecting this book to take, but I ended up really liking it. The differing perspective for the main character in imagining ‘what could have been’ was a great way to put her own actual life in perspective. Obviously I can’t get too much into the details without giving things away, but it was a welcome subversion of my expectations for this book. I might have preferred a slightly different ending, but based on the rest of the story where Nima and her family and friends ended up made thematic sense. I wasn’t sure how I would take to a verse novel, but this one has inspired me to pick up more soon. Maybe Clap When You Land next? Not sure, but I’m also excited to read more from this author in the future! *Thanks to Random House Children’s Make Me A World & Netgalley for an advance copy!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sheena

    Going into this book I had no idea what to expect aside from the fact that it was told in verse and compared to Elizabeth Acevedo and Jason Reynolds. The first part of the book discusses racism, bullying, and trying to find acceptance in yourself. Yasmeen is obsessed with another version of herself that could have been and is unhappy in America. A touch of magical realism is introduced later on, which I didn’t expect but it was done so well. I would go into this book without reading much because Going into this book I had no idea what to expect aside from the fact that it was told in verse and compared to Elizabeth Acevedo and Jason Reynolds. The first part of the book discusses racism, bullying, and trying to find acceptance in yourself. Yasmeen is obsessed with another version of herself that could have been and is unhappy in America. A touch of magical realism is introduced later on, which I didn’t expect but it was done so well. I would go into this book without reading much because I was pleasantly surprised. I can't really give this a proper review but definitely read this if you like books written in verse. This book is heartbreaking and just so beautifully done, I recommend this one for sure. Thanks so much to Netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    leynes

    I discovered Safia Elhillo's work in 2018. Her debut poetry collection, The January Children, had been recommended to me at the time, and I fell in love with her poetic voice. Her poems spoke of trauma, home, immigration, love, and friendship. I could connect with so much of what she was saying (and gosh, she was saying it so beautifully) that I knew that I would pick up whatever she would publish next. I had to wait a long hard three years until the publication of her first novel, Home Is Not A I discovered Safia Elhillo's work in 2018. Her debut poetry collection, The January Children, had been recommended to me at the time, and I fell in love with her poetic voice. Her poems spoke of trauma, home, immigration, love, and friendship. I could connect with so much of what she was saying (and gosh, she was saying it so beautifully) that I knew that I would pick up whatever she would publish next. I had to wait a long hard three years until the publication of her first novel, Home Is Not A Country. Naturally, I preordered the book long before it was clear that it would be a YA novel written in verse. I usually tend to stay away from YA but in recent years Elizabeth Acevedo has won me over again and I can definitely see the appeal and charm of YA novels written in verse, especially when it's gifted poets like Elhillo and Acevedo doing the writing. The Poet X has become one of my favorite books of all time, so, needless to say, my expectations for Home Is Not A Country were very high. Safia Elhillo's novel didn't quite meet all of my expectations but I'm not really mad about it. Home Is Not A Country is still an incredibly beautifully crafted novel with a lot of potential. It echoed her debut poetry collection quite nicely, both in tone and in theme. However, whereas the latter was very self-contained, Home Is Not A Country felt more unfinished and unpolished. Safia Elhillo had many great ideas and ambitions for the novel, but some of fell short due to pacing and other issues in the narrative structure. It felt like she only scratched the surface. Had she kept digging she would've unearthed something brilliant and raw. Nonetheless, as a reader, you can still see the potential and fill in some of the gaps in the narration and marvel at the beautiful and rich world that Safia Elhillo did create. In the acknowledgements, she wrote: Even during the times I didn’t know where I was from, I have always known those to whom I belong. And that's exactly the spirit of the whole book. Home Is Not A Country is not a love letter to Sudan nor to the US, even though the plot is split between these two places. It is a love letter to mothers and daughters and the bond they share. It is a love letter to friendship, to all the people who we can trust and count on no matter what. It is a love letter to the home we make ourselves. The book tells the story of Nima who is a working-class, Muslim, immigrant kid raised by a single mother in suburban America. After the death of Nima's father, her pregnant mother had left Sudan in pursuit of a better life, only for Nima to find that the American dream might as well be a nightmare since she doesn't belong. Nima is bullied at school for her accented English, her poverty, her mother's hijab. Despite being born in the US, she isn't "American enough". She is an outsider. And even at home and at Arabic school, she doesn't really fit in. There, she feels not "Arabic enough". Nima's frustration, her anger, her fears ... all of this was so vividly described by Elhillo that the reader couldn't help but totally feel for her. I wanted to give her a hug and tell her that everything would be okay. Whenever Nima argued with her mother (why did you bring us here? / they hate us / why did you bring me here / to be tortured / to be alone / why would you / do that to me?), I found it so heartbreaking but could understand both sides. Safia Elhillo managed to create characters that felt incredibly real in their struggles. The way she captures the rising islamophobia in the US, especially after 9/11 is chilling. I cannot imagine what it must've been like for Muslims raising children in the US at that particular point in time. i know something happened on the news again because my mother has stopped wearing her scarf to work she who once said i will never be ashamed of where come from i will never let you be ashamed of who we are seems to have changed her mind & i wonder if this means I should feel ashamed too Nima's mind often wanders back to her mother's (and her?) home country, she listens to old Arabic songs and gets lost in the old photographs of her parents. Sometimes, she wishes her mother had never left. She feels lost and clings to the idealised dream of Sudan that she has created in her head ever since she was little, seeing the longing on the adult's faces around here. As a teenager, Nima turns inward and wants to disappear. Only her best friend Haitham who lives next door can get her out of her shell. And just as the two of them are best friends, so are their mothers. The two women migrated to the US together over a decade ago, and raised their children alongside each other. Therefore, the bond that Nima and Haitham share is extra special. But one day, shortly after 9/11, Haitham is beaten up in a hate crime, winding up in a hospital hooked up to machines. This sets off a chain of events that lets Nima discover her family's history in an usual manner – she is able to travel back in time and is given the opportunity to change the past. This magical realism element came quite out of the blue (it is introduced a third way into the book) and so I had to adjust my expectations a bit, but ultimately, it was a great plot device that added a lot of richness (as Nima was able to explore Sudan and her mother's adolescence) and suspense to the story. Home Is Not A Country has many twists and turns, many of which I didn't see coming. It was a captivating read, and I wasn't surprised that I read it within a couple hours. One thing I really loved about the book was how well fleshed out the friendship between Nima and Haitham was. Safia Elhillo made me care for both of them deeply, and that within a couple of pages. are you going to tell? he whispers & i shake my head thrumming with excitement & fear a grin stretches across his face good he begins unwrapping the candy because half of these are yours Therefore, when Haitham winds up at the hospital, it was a great strategic narrative choice to put the time travelling interlude next, therefore, delaying the resolution of Haitham's fate. During the whole time travelling interlude, the reader is on the edge of their seat because we cannot bare for Haitham to die. By delaying certainty, we, as readers, are put in Nima's shoes as she explores her parents' past whilst also worrying about Haitham. This choice added a sense of urgency to the whole narrative, which I highly appreciated that. I know what Safia Elhillo was trying to achieve during the time travelling interlude, but I don't think it was as successful as it could've been. The whole episode felt very rushed. Nima is to quick to accept that she has just travelled in time, and her tensions with Yasmeen (the girl who guides her through the past) are resolved too quickly and not very convincingly. Had this part of the book been revised and refined, Home Is Not A Country would probably be a 5-star read for me! However, the origins of Yasmeen are still interesting. Some people have the gift of understanding that they could have been other people; Nima is one of them. She understands that her own life is just one branch of a tree, and the seeds that became her could have just as easily become someone else. Since she always wished to be invisible and to disappear, she projected all of her feelings on Yasmeen, the girl she should've been. Yasmeen is the name her father wanted to give her, therefore, she shapes it into a more graceful and confident version of herself. Yasmeen is everything she wants to be. But when Yasmeen takes real shape as Nima travels to the past, the two girls don't get along very well ... after all, they both know that only one of them will come back out of this trip alive. The premise of having Nima and Yasmeen compete to change the past, so that they are the one who'll come out alive was fascinating and could've been so cool. But like I explained earlier, the execution was a bit of a mess and the whole episode felt extremely rushed. Nonetheless, I love the lessons that Nima took away from this trip. but i was wrong he was never meant to be ours my father he was always meant to be gone it was always bigger than anything my small tampering could change & my mother & i we were always meant to belong to no one but each other Nima felt so certain that one decision would solve all her problems, only to learn that nothing came out the way she expected and that not much has changed after all ((view spoiler)[= her father still left her mother, and left her to swallow the bitter lie that she was fed during her childhood that he had dies (hide spoiler)] ). All of these what-ifs that only distract us without serving us any good. The book explores how questions about where we come from can take over our life, when the answer lies right there in the people who are closest to us, who are there for us, who make us us. More than anything, I appreciate Home Is Not A Country for the love letters to all the hard-working and loving mothers out there ("her name aisha means she who lives / but mostly she goes to work & comes home tired") that it is. Despite its flaws, I would recommend it to people who are interested in novels written in verse and/or are familiar with Safia's work and enjoyed it thus far!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Creya

    Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Children’s for providing a digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Nima and her mother have fled their homeland in search of the American dream. Unfortunately Nima does not feel like she belongs in America at all. She is often excluded and bullied at school, and her peers call her a terrorist. She wishes that her late father could emerge and make it all better. When given the chance at a new, different life, Nima finds that the grass is Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Children’s for providing a digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Nima and her mother have fled their homeland in search of the American dream. Unfortunately Nima does not feel like she belongs in America at all. She is often excluded and bullied at school, and her peers call her a terrorist. She wishes that her late father could emerge and make it all better. When given the chance at a new, different life, Nima finds that the grass is not always greener on the other side, and maybe her mother is all she ever needed after all.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Noura Khalid (theperksofbeingnoura)

    This was raw and so unbelievably amazing! The emotions I felt were so strong while reading this one. Can not recommend enough! Thank you Penguin Random House International for the gifted copy!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sana

    An #ownvoices book about a Sudanese American Muslim girl, family and identity, yessss

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ana

    4 stars *may change (points) hey, that’s my moms name

  10. 5 out of 5

    -`ˏ Galaxi Faerie ˎ´˗

    -`ˏ 4 stars ˎ´˗ Storyline -`ˏ 8/10 ˎ´˗ “Go back to your country!” How can you when your birth certificate identifies this IS your country? Nima was brought up in a suburb town with her mother who originally came from a Muslim country. She feels like an outsider who is fighting to find a place she should belong. She wonders what if things were different? What if she was different? If she wishes to be someone else, would it prevent her from facing tragedy and discrimination? Characters -`ˏ 6/10 ˎ´˗ Ni -`ˏ 4 stars ˎ´˗ Storyline -`ˏ 8/10 ˎ´˗ “Go back to your country!” How can you when your birth certificate identifies this IS your country? Nima was brought up in a suburb town with her mother who originally came from a Muslim country. She feels like an outsider who is fighting to find a place she should belong. She wonders what if things were different? What if she was different? If she wishes to be someone else, would it prevent her from facing tragedy and discrimination? Characters -`ˏ 6/10 ˎ´˗ Nima is the queen of running away during a midsentence. She doesn't feel understood, and yet she doesn't give people an opportunity to try and vice versa. There were times when somebody asks her what was going on and she chose to remain silent. Her outbursts were frustrating, she wondered if she should apologize for a long time until she reached a point where it is unfortunately too late. My heart aches more for her mother and friend Haitham. I saw my mother in this story as she lost my father under similar circumstances. I have witnessed my mother's struggles on her own to provide in a place where people despise you based on your appearance. Dealing with all that just for your child may have better life opportunities. Then there’s Haitham, he may be a bit of a bad influence, but he's a good friend to cherish. He tries to open Nima up to making friends and go places but she refuses. If you feel isolated and alone, you must at least try to take one step forward. This is definitely a scary process, sometimes you will fail, but if you do not try how can you expect anything to change. Atmosphere -`ˏ 8/10 ˎ´˗ The magical element was a unique and wonderful prospect to the story that became a saving grace. It was a great way to get Nima out of the prior state of mind. I love the flicking-in and out symbolism. Trigger warnings: racism, islamophobia, self-degradation, abuse (physical, emotional, and verbal), police brutality, death of a loved one (mention), abduction (attempted). Language -`ˏ 10/10 ˎ´˗ The poetry collections flowed nicely together, which makes the writing exquisite. Enjoyment -`ˏ 8/10 ˎ´˗ Once the magical element became more prone I started enjoying it a lot more. Nima's interaction with “herself” really struck a chord. The ending wrapped up in a way that I wasn't expecting but really appreciated. I’m looking forward to hearing it again as an audiobook. e-Arc provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. -`ˏ Thank You ˎ´˗

  11. 4 out of 5

    Azanta

    I already know this is one of the best books I will read this year. The last time I cried this much in a book was in A Sky Beyond the Storm. It caught me off guard honestly - how raw and honest and breathing ly beautiful this is. To all my children of immigrants, this is a must read. This is written in verse as well but it is easy to read, easy to keep up with, and there’s so much to unpack. This is definitely one of those books I wish I had analyzed in English and Reading growing up in the Amer I already know this is one of the best books I will read this year. The last time I cried this much in a book was in A Sky Beyond the Storm. It caught me off guard honestly - how raw and honest and breathing ly beautiful this is. To all my children of immigrants, this is a must read. This is written in verse as well but it is easy to read, easy to keep up with, and there’s so much to unpack. This is definitely one of those books I wish I had analyzed in English and Reading growing up in the American education system instead of consistent poetry written by old white men. The feeling of loneliness, of not belonging, of wanting to be different and wanting more was captured so perfectly by Safia. I can’t recommend this enough. Just wow.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Isabella | ilashreads

    Home is Not a Country was uplifiting and Safia Elhillo is a stunning poet. This collection of poetry tells a great story through vivid language. The first part tells the story of Mima, her immigrant mother, and their experience in their community. It touches on racism, xenophobia, poverty, bullying, and many other real topics. The second and third parts are full of magical realism that insight hope and strength. I cannot recommend Home is Not a Country highly enough! Thanks to NetGalley and the p Home is Not a Country was uplifiting and Safia Elhillo is a stunning poet. This collection of poetry tells a great story through vivid language. The first part tells the story of Mima, her immigrant mother, and their experience in their community. It touches on racism, xenophobia, poverty, bullying, and many other real topics. The second and third parts are full of magical realism that insight hope and strength. I cannot recommend Home is Not a Country highly enough! Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Emmawiththebooks

    This was a beautifully written, and powerful story about finding your identity. I would definitely recommend giving it a read! **Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an E-arc in exchange for my honest review.**

  14. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

    Thank you to NetGalley, Random House Children's, and Safia Elhillo for the opportunity to read Home is Not a Country in exchange for an honest review. I initially requested this book as it was described as being told in verse. I absolutely adore books told in a poetic form. It really adds to the author's craft and the artistic style of the writing. This verse wasn't quite what I expected, as it felt somewhat closer to prose, but it was written with brilliance and every word placement thought out Thank you to NetGalley, Random House Children's, and Safia Elhillo for the opportunity to read Home is Not a Country in exchange for an honest review. I initially requested this book as it was described as being told in verse. I absolutely adore books told in a poetic form. It really adds to the author's craft and the artistic style of the writing. This verse wasn't quite what I expected, as it felt somewhat closer to prose, but it was written with brilliance and every word placement thought out accordingly. This story follows Nima, a girl who struggles to fit in as her family is from the Middle East. She faces bullying as well as identity issues. Her mom always talks about where she came from, but as the title indicates, home is not the country you were born or live in, it's much more. Nima also struggles when her best friend is shot, supposedly because of racial stereotypes. Nima has an internal identity struggle with her other half, Yasmeen. This part of the book kind of took me out of the story and I struggled to find solid ground here, but that also seems intentional, as Nima struggles to find out just who Yasmeen is to her, and to sift through this other life she could have lived. Nima struggles with identity, as most teens do, and finds that identity is made up of your own self and interests, the people around you, your cultural background, and so much more. This was a wholesome tale about culture and finding one's place within their own world. I appreciated the verse aspect of the novel as well as the incorporation of Arabic every once in a while. I use to be able to read Arabic, but I never practiced after taking it in college, so it was lost on me, but sharing the characters of the language and showing that to young readers shares a beautiful aspect of Middle Eastern culture. There is a lot to learn from this book, whether it's relating to similar experiences (good and bad) or learning and understanding just what "home" means. A beautiful novel that would make a fine place as a classroom book with a ton of potential for diverse discussions.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Christi Flaker

    This beautiful book in verse is an excellent look into the life of a girl who does not feel as though she "fits". She was born in the US to a newly immigrated mother. Her father was killed before she was born. Her father had wanted to name her Yasmeen, but her mother decided to give her the name Nima instead. Nima is not a confident girl and does not have a lot of friends, she doesn't feel as though she fully fits in in her community and yet does not feel like she belongs in her mother's home cou This beautiful book in verse is an excellent look into the life of a girl who does not feel as though she "fits". She was born in the US to a newly immigrated mother. Her father was killed before she was born. Her father had wanted to name her Yasmeen, but her mother decided to give her the name Nima instead. Nima is not a confident girl and does not have a lot of friends, she doesn't feel as though she fully fits in in her community and yet does not feel like she belongs in her mother's home country either. She is going through a rough patch in life that includes a rift with her long-time best friend and is having a bit of a crisis of character. She is constantly picturing herself as Yasmeen and Yasmeen becomes the epitomy of a happy life in Nima's eyes. When tragedy strikes, Nima is pulled into a magical realism/paranormal state where she must face herself as well as her families history.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ariel (ariel_reads)

    This is a beautiful novel written in a poetic prose. A rather quick and flowing read, but one with meaning and depth that will stick with readers even after the final page is turned. This book addresses several themes such as immigration, identity, belonging, connection, community, generational trauma, and many more. Symbolic as well as reflective, Home Is Not a Country challenges its characters and its readers to think beyond our typical worldviews to mediate on past, present, and future. Thank This is a beautiful novel written in a poetic prose. A rather quick and flowing read, but one with meaning and depth that will stick with readers even after the final page is turned. This book addresses several themes such as immigration, identity, belonging, connection, community, generational trauma, and many more. Symbolic as well as reflective, Home Is Not a Country challenges its characters and its readers to think beyond our typical worldviews to mediate on past, present, and future. Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Children's for an arc in exchange for an honest review. A full review will be posted on https://www.armedwithabook.com/ closer to publication date.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I loved this. The close diary-like voice as Nima introduces us to her life is followed by a heart-pounding brush with death and trauma, leading to a magical realism center where Nima gets to help choose her fate. The happy ending made me cry, and it was a complex feeling - with a wistfulness and wishing for all kids to be able to find empowerment and happy endings. Nima keeps pushing forward to find her truth and get to a place where she feels authentic in herself, not in how others perceive her. I loved this. The close diary-like voice as Nima introduces us to her life is followed by a heart-pounding brush with death and trauma, leading to a magical realism center where Nima gets to help choose her fate. The happy ending made me cry, and it was a complex feeling - with a wistfulness and wishing for all kids to be able to find empowerment and happy endings. Nima keeps pushing forward to find her truth and get to a place where she feels authentic in herself, not in how others perceive her. For fans of The Poet X or Chlorine Sky, this is a novel-in-verse with gentle rhythms and pauses to lead the reader deeper into Nima's emotional life. Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Children's Books for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sacha

    Thanks to NetGalley and Make Me a World for this arc, which I received in exchange for an honest review. I’ll post that review upon publication. Those in need of a quick but meaningful read in verse will find it here. Updated 3/2/21 4 stars This is a satisfying and aesthetically pleasing verse novel centered on Nima, who spends much of her time looking at dichotomous relationships: one country and home versus another, one identity versus another, one version of her parents versus another, and so o Thanks to NetGalley and Make Me a World for this arc, which I received in exchange for an honest review. I’ll post that review upon publication. Those in need of a quick but meaningful read in verse will find it here. Updated 3/2/21 4 stars This is a satisfying and aesthetically pleasing verse novel centered on Nima, who spends much of her time looking at dichotomous relationships: one country and home versus another, one identity versus another, one version of her parents versus another, and so on. While I enjoyed the novel very much overall, I did find the Nima/Yasmeen thread a bit drawn out toward the end. This is a thematically pleasing element, but I wanted to see more plot development and less expansion in that specific case. The cultural elements, character building, and one-to-one relationships are all highlights here. Recommended -

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jade

    I chose to read this because the title immediately resonated with me: Home is definitely not a country for me, and I’m sure it isn’t for many people. Home is something that I continuously search for, and find or have found in multiple places at different times in my life. It’s a tough feeling to explain to someone who was born and raised in the same place as their parents were. It’s a constant feeling of sometimes belonging in parts, and most of the time not, finding happiness in certain things, I chose to read this because the title immediately resonated with me: Home is definitely not a country for me, and I’m sure it isn’t for many people. Home is something that I continuously search for, and find or have found in multiple places at different times in my life. It’s a tough feeling to explain to someone who was born and raised in the same place as their parents were. It’s a constant feeling of sometimes belonging in parts, and most of the time not, finding happiness in certain things, and never understanding others, and so on. Safia Elhillo’s Home is Not a Country is a beautiful story in verse which I read in nearly one sitting, holding my heart in my hand. Nima feels divided between the life she lives and the life she could have had elsewhere, where her mother and deceased father grew up and fell in love. She doesn’t feel like she belongs and searches for answers in old photos, movies, songs, and stories, looking for signs of who she is and where she comes from. The only person who seems to understand her is her best friend Haitham, but their relationship is changing and they are drifting apart. Suddenly she notices the appearance of another presence, a girl like her who has the same name her parents were going to name her, but didn’t, Yasmeen. Home is Not a Country is gorgeous poetry, magical realism, strong themes, a beautiful main character who I fell in love with, and is all in all a must read! Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Skincare For Introverts

    Home is Not a Country is a beautiful novel-in-prose following a Sudanese Muslim teen coming to terms with her identity in the face of tragedy and discrimination. Overall, while I'm pleased with my reading experience with this book, I can't say the story will linger with me. Though the writing was beautiful, I often found myself a bit confused on what exactly was happening at a given moment and how certain scenes and characters related to one another. For this reason, I'd not entirely convinced o Home is Not a Country is a beautiful novel-in-prose following a Sudanese Muslim teen coming to terms with her identity in the face of tragedy and discrimination. Overall, while I'm pleased with my reading experience with this book, I can't say the story will linger with me. Though the writing was beautiful, I often found myself a bit confused on what exactly was happening at a given moment and how certain scenes and characters related to one another. For this reason, I'd not entirely convinced of the cohesiveness of the narrative, the emotional impact of it less powerful for me than it was for other readers. Still, the writing style was unqiue and artful, and I look forward to Elhillo's future works. Thank you for allowing me to read this piece!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    Nima straddles two worlds: the Muslim country she and her mom immigrated from, and the post-9/11 world they are trying to call home. The free verse first-person narration of this novel is masterful. Readers are fully immersed in Nima’s sense of otherness, and in the prejudice and derision she and her mother receive from Americans who see all Muslims as terrorists. The transition from the mundane but poignant day-to-day events to a space of magical realism in which Nima literally confronts her fam Nima straddles two worlds: the Muslim country she and her mom immigrated from, and the post-9/11 world they are trying to call home. The free verse first-person narration of this novel is masterful. Readers are fully immersed in Nima’s sense of otherness, and in the prejudice and derision she and her mother receive from Americans who see all Muslims as terrorists. The transition from the mundane but poignant day-to-day events to a space of magical realism in which Nima literally confronts her family’s past is a bit abrupt, but it ultimately works. Thanks to NetGalley and Make Me A World for the advance readers copy.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Carly

    Have you ever wanted to be a different, better version of yourself? So has Nima. Nima is growing up in the United States, the daughter of an immigrant mother from a country never disclosed to the reader. She knows her name was almost Yasmeen, and she pictures herself as Yasmeen being less clumsy, more liked by her peers and better at Arabic. The harder she wishes she was born Yasmeen, the more she starts feeling herself slipping away and being replaced by a very realistic vision of Yasmeen. I rea Have you ever wanted to be a different, better version of yourself? So has Nima. Nima is growing up in the United States, the daughter of an immigrant mother from a country never disclosed to the reader. She knows her name was almost Yasmeen, and she pictures herself as Yasmeen being less clumsy, more liked by her peers and better at Arabic. The harder she wishes she was born Yasmeen, the more she starts feeling herself slipping away and being replaced by a very realistic vision of Yasmeen. I really enjoyed this book! I received the ARC for NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. When I read books targeted towards YA I like to review them based on whether I would put it in my classroom library or recommend it to a student, and I definitely would with this one! The content was extremely important and very interesting as well. My only problem with books that are larger stories told in poetry, is that I think a lot of the poems don’t know whether they want to be more lyrical or push the plot forward and sometimes it suffers both ways. I imagine this is EXTREMELY difficult to do as a writer and Elhillo, for the most part did a fantastic job!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany

    The last time I read a novel in verse that had me this enthralled and emotional, was with Clap When You Land. There was so much to unpack with this brilliantly written novel. I felt Nima’s pain and struggle with finding her identity when she felt as if she didn’t belong in any specific place. It was haunting, and yet beautiful. I cried right along with her when she and Haitham were treated cruelly. I didn’t want her story to end. I devoured this in an hour and a half, and immediately regretted n The last time I read a novel in verse that had me this enthralled and emotional, was with Clap When You Land. There was so much to unpack with this brilliantly written novel. I felt Nima’s pain and struggle with finding her identity when she felt as if she didn’t belong in any specific place. It was haunting, and yet beautiful. I cried right along with her when she and Haitham were treated cruelly. I didn’t want her story to end. I devoured this in an hour and a half, and immediately regretted not dragging it out longer.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kate R

    This is my first Safia Elhillo book but will not be my last. This author is seriously talented! Her writing reminds me a lot of Elizabeth Acevedo. If you are a fan of hers, you will love this one. It’s written in verse. She paints beautiful pictures with her words. It’s at times humorous and other times heartbreaking. There are a ton of hard topics seen throughout this book including racism and bullying so be prepared. It’s beautiful and powerful and I would definitely recommend it. *I voluntaril This is my first Safia Elhillo book but will not be my last. This author is seriously talented! Her writing reminds me a lot of Elizabeth Acevedo. If you are a fan of hers, you will love this one. It’s written in verse. She paints beautiful pictures with her words. It’s at times humorous and other times heartbreaking. There are a ton of hard topics seen throughout this book including racism and bullying so be prepared. It’s beautiful and powerful and I would definitely recommend it. *I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Katelyn

    A story that is written in verse about racism and being a teen. I was excited about this as it is hyped by Elizabeth Acevedo! This did give me Elizabeth Acevedo vibes. I gave this a three-star because it was boring at times. I also felt like I’ve heard the story before. The plot was predictable. I did like how fast-paced the book is and the racism that is explored throughout. Thank you NetGalley & to the publisher for an advanced copy!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Kohlbrenner

    She has a powerful voice in this novel in verse. I loved the first half of this novel as she developed the characters and the world Nima lives straddled between the old world of her mother’s and the US where she feels she doesn’t belong and uncomfortable in her own skin and experiences significant prejudice. However, it takes a turn into the magical realism realm that did not completely work for me. It was a little too scattered to follow during this second half for me. I did like how it came to She has a powerful voice in this novel in verse. I loved the first half of this novel as she developed the characters and the world Nima lives straddled between the old world of her mother’s and the US where she feels she doesn’t belong and uncomfortable in her own skin and experiences significant prejudice. However, it takes a turn into the magical realism realm that did not completely work for me. It was a little too scattered to follow during this second half for me. I did like how it came together in the end and felt the growth of character in Nima.

  27. 4 out of 5

    trishla ⚡ | YourLocalBookReader

    4 stars. I am a huge fan of novels in verse or poetry. I feel like they connect with all readers so well and they sweep you into another world. Home Is Not a Country is the feeling of wasting away searching for a home you will never truly belong in, until you make it your own. Too brown for america, and too white to connect fully with a home she's never been to. This book even jumps fully into magical realism and the choices around that. Nima essentially goes back in to her parents time to fight 4 stars. I am a huge fan of novels in verse or poetry. I feel like they connect with all readers so well and they sweep you into another world. Home Is Not a Country is the feeling of wasting away searching for a home you will never truly belong in, until you make it your own. Too brown for america, and too white to connect fully with a home she's never been to. This book even jumps fully into magical realism and the choices around that. Nima essentially goes back in to her parents time to fight for her existence. To me this twist nearly came out of nowhere and it really stuck me. I simply had to finish the rest of the book in one sitting. Lovely ending full of self and familiar love and blending of identities. Find me on: instagram The ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mar B

    WOW THIS WAS ALL KINDA SPLENDOROUS So realistic and yet so magical! When I requested this ARC I knew there was no way I was not going to like it BUT I wasn’t prepared for how poignant and heartbreaking and utterly beautiful and downright perfect it was going to be! MY HEART WAS SHATTERED IN MILLION PIECES UNDER THE WEIGHT OF THIS GIFT I read each page with a huge lump in my throat a lump I can picture many readers getting too, especially immigrants

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kirin

    This upper middle school 224 page novel told in verse touches on familiar themes of finding yourself and wondering about what could have been, but is anything but predictable.  Through magical realism, religion, culture, and phenomenal imagery, this book is haunting and powerful as it sweeps you into the possible alternate reality of a young 14 year-old-girl yearning to be someone else, consumed by a life that could have been, desperate for the other half of her mirrored existence, and for a hom This upper middle school 224 page novel told in verse touches on familiar themes of finding yourself and wondering about what could have been, but is anything but predictable.  Through magical realism, religion, culture, and phenomenal imagery, this book is haunting and powerful as it sweeps you into the possible alternate reality of a young 14 year-old-girl yearning to be someone else, consumed by a life that could have been, desperate for the other half of her mirrored existence, and for a home that she does not know, but so desperately longs for.  As a Muslim child of an immigrant, the daughter of a single mother, and nearly invisible at school, readers will feel her story, more than know it, and find themselves in her own awakening. SYNOPSIS: Nima feels like she exists in pieces.  No one understands her and she doesn't feel comfortable in her own skin.  At school she is invisible, she is foreign and teased for it.  She has one friend, Haitham who is always there for her at home, but just a familiar wave in public.  At home Nima enjoys old Arabic songs and movies, hobbies she is teased for at weekend Arabic school, her hardworking mother is graceful and beautiful, Nima is neither.  Her world is the aunties and family in her building, but her Arabic is weak and she doesn't fit in anywhere.  Her father passed away before she was born in a country she has never known.  Her twin sister died before birth, one for each parent in each world.  Nima imagines if she wasn't Nima, but Yasmeen instead.  If she was bright and loud and loved and confident. The name she was nearly given, an alternate life she has become obsessed with. When Haitham and her get in a fight, when her mother removes her headscarf and the bullying intensifies, Haitham ends up in the hospital, assaulted, barely hanging on and Yasmeen appears to help a floundering Nima escape a meal she can't afford, a man that intends to assault her, and a world where she might find answers. The two girls travel to the homeland in the photographs to understand their parents, to understand why their mother left and Nima to the realization that only one of the girls can truly exist.   WHY I LIKE IT: I love that I had no idea where the story was going and how much would be spelled out and how much would be left for the reader to interpret.  It affected me in a way that I wasn't expecting and reminded me of the blurred lines of reality from books like Beloved (Toni Morrison) and Her Fearful Symmetry (Audrey Niffenegger).  I love that the Arabic script is present and often not translated.  The unapologetic connection to the character and author is powerful and beautiful to see in a deeply introspective book.  I enjoyed that the "country" wasn't named as it added to the concept of not knowing you home, it was frustrating, but for all the right reasons. There isn't a lot of practiced Islam mentioned, she doesn't talk about praying, but does talk about the athan and longing for it.  Her mother wears hijab, but takes it off and wears a hat instead. The daily life of living in two worlds is taken to mean something very literal and the journey to both worlds is remarkable and memorable. FLAGS: There is physical assault, theft, lying.  Nima has to escape a man that intends to rape her, his intention isn't detailed, but Yasmeen helps her escape when he brings her to a hotel.  Haitham's dad has an affair with his mom and she is pregnant with him when the story flips back to the past and the couple are not married.  There is singing and music and dancing throughout. I think 14 and 15 year olds will be able to grasp the intensity of such situations while also not being shocked by them. TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION: I am on the fence if I could do this as a middle school book club, I might suggest it to the high school advisor.  There is so much to unwrap in the lyrical text that will draw the students in and force them to reflect on their own impressions to understand Nima's reality.  I think there would be so many conflicting thoughts that the discussion would be amazing.  

  30. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    An early copy of this book was given to me by the publisher on Netgalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Home is Not a Country is a novel in verse about Nima, the sole child of an immigrant, Muslim woman who longs for more. Alone and with one friend in life, Nima wonders what might have been if she was named Yasmeen, if her father had never died, if her parents had never left their home. This wondering consumes her and soon the dream of Yasmeen starts to become realer than she imagined. Thi An early copy of this book was given to me by the publisher on Netgalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Home is Not a Country is a novel in verse about Nima, the sole child of an immigrant, Muslim woman who longs for more. Alone and with one friend in life, Nima wonders what might have been if she was named Yasmeen, if her father had never died, if her parents had never left their home. This wondering consumes her and soon the dream of Yasmeen starts to become realer than she imagined. This book is beautifully told in flowing verse which never feels sparse. Nima's personality and the struggles she and her mother faces as immigrants, Muslims, and a single mother and daughter come through clearly in the writing. One thing I love about books written in verse is that they often flow so nicely, making the reading experience a bit like a song. In this book, music is very important, so that comparison is very apt and welcome within this story. The story itself speaks of looking at what you have in your life, instead of what you're missing or what life could be. It's ultimately a story of happiness and making your own, despite what life hands you, or how hard society wants to keep you down. Above all, it's an exploration of the mother-daughter bond. As someone who is very close to my mother but had a rocky relationship in my teen years, it was so nice to see this relationship represented. This is also an ownvoices novel by a Muslim, Sudanese-American woman, and it's a story I knew I wanted to read for that very reason. The novel presents untold stories of being an immigrant, of being a religious minority, around 2001. Elhillo gracefully deals with racism, with feeling displaced and homesick for a country you've never known, and I loved being able to take this viewpoint for a time. My one criticism of the book is that a fight with a friend in the beginning of the novel is later written off, when I wished that it could have been dealt with properly. I think there was time for that in this novel, particularly if certain sections had been tightened up more. There was very little lagging, but some moments towards the middle where I thought "what are we doing here?" If that had been reduced and more time spent on resolving that important fight, I think it would have shown that Nima had learned something for her experience, shown some growth. Overall, I can highly recommend Home is Not a Country particularly for those readers who wish to read more diversely. Although the experiences may not be relatable to all, Elhillo transcends any barriers to understanding with loveable characters, gorgeous writing, and enduring themes.

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