Monday, March 20, 2017

Watched by Marina Budhos



Naeem and his family are from Bangladesh and Naeem knows they are being watched.  The entire neighborhood is under surveillance with cameras on poles, people in their mosques, and friends who might be reporting conversations to the authorities.  Naeem has gone from being the model son to a boy who is in trouble.  His slacking off at school has made it impossible for him to graduate on time and his activities with his friend Ibrahim have led to him being arrested again.  But this time, the cops have a deal for him:  re-immerse himself in the Muslim community and report back to them on anything suspicious he might see.  Naeem manages to believe that he's helping his community by rooting out the bad seeds and the big wads of cash he gets for the information he provides is helping his family to succeed.  But is the cost too great?

The premise of this book is certainly timely and, I'm sure, realistic.  It should've been a fast-paced, gripping novel.  However, I was put off by the writing style - too poetic - and it felt to me like things moved sooooo slowly.  I was never completely drawn into Naeem's conflict about the rightness or wrongness of his actions which should've been the central focus of this story.  Nor did I really feel the conflict about the racial profiling that is prevalent in the book.  It seems that Naeem does locate some people who are doing some questionable things but does that make it okay to spy on an entire community?  That point wasn't driven home as clearly as I would've liked and expected.


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