When a young American girl learns of a new friend’s troubles in her home far away, she impulsively decides she can and must help. Her actions, however, soon put herself and others at great risk.
Thirteen-year-olds Maddie and Sayara meet in the Bahamas, where they are vacationing with their families. They quickly become fast friends, spending their time riding the waterslide, building sand castles and learning to windsurf. But three days short of the scheduled departure, Sayara tells Maddie she must go home to “the kingdom,” where women wear “tents,” and must adhere to numerous restrictions. Sayara’s cousin, Themi, has been arrested for driving, potentially casting the entire family in a bad light.
When Maddie learns of life for women in this foreign land, she hatches a plan – unbeknownst to her family – to travel there and persuade the king that his rules are wrong. Her foolish move leads to serious trouble, not only for Maddie but for the people who try to help her.
This young-adult story is well written with insightful information about a culture vastly different from Western ways of life. But while the foreign culture is painted realistically, and there are many who protest it, the author also illustrates the love “the kingdom’s” citizens have for it and why so many stay.
Maddie is quite idealistic, but that seems fitting for a 13-year-old, and if the journey is implausible, author Sanjyot P. Dunung does the necessary work to make it believable—and even possible. While information is repeated occasionally and strangers seem to bond remarkably fast, those are minor issues that do little harm.
Overall, Maddie & Sayara will be enjoyed by adolescent girls in particular, but also by adults interested in a close-up view of a different world as shared by a hopeful young girl.
Also available as an ebook.