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Hollow Fires

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A powerful, gripping YA novel about the insidious nature of racism, the terrible costs of unearthing hidden truths, and the undeniable power of hope, by New York Times bestselling author Samira Ahmed. Perfect for fans of Sadie and Dear Martin. Safiya Mirza dreams of becoming a journalist. And one thing she’s learned as editor of her school newspaper is that a journalist’s A powerful, gripping YA novel about the insidious nature of racism, the terrible costs of unearthing hidden truths, and the undeniable power of hope, by New York Times bestselling author Samira Ahmed. Perfect for fans of Sadie and Dear Martin. Safiya Mirza dreams of becoming a journalist. And one thing she’s learned as editor of her school newspaper is that a journalist’s job is to find the facts and not let personal biases affect the story. But all that changes the day she finds the body of a murdered boy. Jawad Ali was fourteen years old when he built a cosplay jetpack that a teacher mistook for a bomb. A jetpack that got him arrested, labeled a terrorist—and eventually killed. But he’s more than a dead body, and more than “Bomb Boy.” He was a person with a life worth remembering. Driven by Jawad’s haunting voice guiding her throughout her investigation, Safiya seeks to tell the whole truth about the murdered boy and those who killed him because of their hate-based beliefs. This gripping and powerful book uses an innovative format and lyrical prose to expose the evil that exists in front of us, and the silent complicity of the privileged who create alternative facts to bend the truth to their liking.


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A powerful, gripping YA novel about the insidious nature of racism, the terrible costs of unearthing hidden truths, and the undeniable power of hope, by New York Times bestselling author Samira Ahmed. Perfect for fans of Sadie and Dear Martin. Safiya Mirza dreams of becoming a journalist. And one thing she’s learned as editor of her school newspaper is that a journalist’s A powerful, gripping YA novel about the insidious nature of racism, the terrible costs of unearthing hidden truths, and the undeniable power of hope, by New York Times bestselling author Samira Ahmed. Perfect for fans of Sadie and Dear Martin. Safiya Mirza dreams of becoming a journalist. And one thing she’s learned as editor of her school newspaper is that a journalist’s job is to find the facts and not let personal biases affect the story. But all that changes the day she finds the body of a murdered boy. Jawad Ali was fourteen years old when he built a cosplay jetpack that a teacher mistook for a bomb. A jetpack that got him arrested, labeled a terrorist—and eventually killed. But he’s more than a dead body, and more than “Bomb Boy.” He was a person with a life worth remembering. Driven by Jawad’s haunting voice guiding her throughout her investigation, Safiya seeks to tell the whole truth about the murdered boy and those who killed him because of their hate-based beliefs. This gripping and powerful book uses an innovative format and lyrical prose to expose the evil that exists in front of us, and the silent complicity of the privileged who create alternative facts to bend the truth to their liking.

30 review for Hollow Fires

  1. 5 out of 5

    RoshReviews

    In a Nutshell: Excellent intent. Needed slightly better execution. Will work well for its target YA readers. Story: Safiya Mirza is a journalism student. As an Indian-origin scholarship student who is also a Muslim, she finds herself facing biases on a regular basis but she tries not to let them affect her. But soon, the attacks start becoming more personal. This is when she discovers the body of Jawad in an abandoned corner of a local park. Fourteen year old Jawad, the son of Iraqi refugees, was a In a Nutshell: Excellent intent. Needed slightly better execution. Will work well for its target YA readers. Story: Safiya Mirza is a journalism student. As an Indian-origin scholarship student who is also a Muslim, she finds herself facing biases on a regular basis but she tries not to let them affect her. But soon, the attacks start becoming more personal. This is when she discovers the body of Jawad in an abandoned corner of a local park. Fourteen year old Jawad, the son of Iraqi refugees, was a brilliant inventor However, his life changes for the worse when a teacher mistakes his homebuilt cosplay jetpack for a bomb and calls 911. This innocent invention gets Jawad arrested, labelled “Bomb Boy”, and eventually killed. Jawad’s voice reaches out to Safiya even from the beyond. Safiya feels the need to discover the truth but whom can she trust? Is she herself safe when her school too isn’t immune to hate crimes? Will Jawad and his family get justice? Where the book worked for me: ✔ The book begins with small one-liner definitions of ‘fact’, ‘alternative fact’, ‘truth’ and ‘lie’. Every chapter having Safiya’s narrative begins with some simple but deep statements based on the above. I loved this idea. Every single one of these entries was thought-provoking. They reminded me of the anonymous adage, “Stupidity is knowing the truth, seeing the truth but still believing the lies.” ✔ Ahmed’s writing is very poetic, though the topic is dire. Especially when she is writing about nature, she creates beautiful visuals. ✔ The book goes much beyond typical racial discrimination stories. It analyses Islamaphobia through various angles. Having characters from varied Islamic backgrounds (Arab, Indian, African) also helps build a multi-faceted analysis of this unfortunately common prejudice of recent years. The social commentary in the book, though a tad OTT especially towards the end, is excellent. ✔ The writing style reminded me a lot of “A Good Girl's Guide to Murder”. Safiya has a similar daredevil kind of approach as Pippa, the teen protagonist of the Holly Jackson novel. Both of them focus on research, both jump in alone where they shouldn’t be, both have a great group of supportive friends. The presentation of both the books is also similar, with them both containing an investigative journalism sort of vibe. This works for the story. (Though I must also say, Holly Jackson handles this aspect slightly better.) ✔ Jawad is a character who can’t be ignored. His heartfelt pleas to Safiya, his memories of his parents, his puzzlement at being singled out as a terrorist, his regret at a future that was never meant to be,… all show him to be a vulnerable boy whose life was cut off before it even began. His family is the best portrayed in the book, followed closely by Safiya’s parents. ✔ There are some great one-liners that will make you pause and ponder. ✔ Jawad’s murder is based on a real life murder case of 1924. I read the details of this case online and was surprised to see how well the author has transposed the historical details into this contemporary fictional plot and raised it to a whole new level by adding the elements of white supremacy, neo-Nazism, and racial discrimination. Where the book could have worked better for me: ❌ I wasn’t a fan of the plot construction. The book has multiple narrative voices - the first person perspectives of Safiya and Jawad (speaking from beyond life), and also many third-party investigative reports such as newspaper articles, police investigations and podcasts. In addition, the story isn’t linear and goes back and forth through 2021 to 2023. The abrupt changes between these was confusing. ❌ The book is pretty slow-paced in the first half. ❌ The identity of the murderer will not leave most adult readers surprised, it is so predictable! I guess only those teens/YAs who don’t read many thrillers will be caught unawares at the big reveal. Minor spoilers below: (view spoiler)[ ⚠ Other than Safiya’s friend Rachel (who is a white Jew), there’s no good ‘white’ character in the story (as far as I could make out. The race of some characters wasn’t specified.) Seems like a kind of reverse discrimination. ⚠ Safiya discovers Jawad’s body as he (His ghost? His soul?) is communicating the location to her. So my query is, if Jawad could tell Safiya where to find his corpse, why could he also not tell her who killed him or how it happened? Especially when he knew that she was so close to danger? This was too big a loophole for me and the main reason I couldn’t go higher in my rating. (hide spoiler)] All in all, despite my issues with the writing style, the book still offered an insightful reading experience. This was my first book by this author but I feel like exploring more of her works. Recommended to Young Adults who want to read about a serious contemporary issue. Older readers can also give this a try but not as a crime thriller. More as a social drama. 4.25 stars. My thanks to Little, Brown Book Group UK and NetGalley for the DRC of “Hollow Fires”. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book. *********************** A note not directly related to the book: One action that the culprit in the book uses to scare the students is drawing the Swastika on the school wall. The students immediately recognise it as a Nazi symbol and are horrified. I just want to use this chance to let you know, there are two variants of the swastika. (I am a bit disappointed that the author didn’t mention this in her author’s note.) One of the swastikas, drawn in a square-like pattern with right-facing arms, is an ancient sacred symbol in Indic religions - Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. There’s nothing Nazi or discriminative about it. The word “swastika” is Sanskrit for “conducive to well-being” and it is a symbol for prosperity and good luck. The other symbol, drawn in a diamond sort of shape, is the Nazi swastika, called a “Hakenkreuz” - “hooked cross” in German. Ancient Indian artefacts once owned by Aryan nomads were found to feature the swastika, and hence Hitler adopted the symbol for his party to exert the dominance of the so-called Aryan heritage. If you see a swastika, make sure you know which one has been drawn before shaming the person for Nazi ideologies. I am writing this because I have seen this happen multiple times on social media. Don’t jump to conclusions on half-baked information. For your reference, here are the two swastikas. Hope this helps! *********************** Join me on the Facebook group, Readers Forever! , for more reviews, book-related discussions and fun.

  2. 4 out of 5

    ♥Milica♥

    Hollow Fires is based on a true story, one I'm not even sure I heard about. But you can bet I'll be reading up on it later, and starting with the book the author recommended in the historical note. That true case was "adapted" for modern times, and I think it was done very well. While reading I thought there was no way someone could be so hateful, that they would go to such lengths to murder a fourteen year old boy, but it happened, it's happening right now, and it will continue to happen until so Hollow Fires is based on a true story, one I'm not even sure I heard about. But you can bet I'll be reading up on it later, and starting with the book the author recommended in the historical note. That true case was "adapted" for modern times, and I think it was done very well. While reading I thought there was no way someone could be so hateful, that they would go to such lengths to murder a fourteen year old boy, but it happened, it's happening right now, and it will continue to happen until something changes. This book pushes all of those issues front and centre, and for that reason it's an important read. There's commentary on pretty much everything, from racism and islamophobia, to patriarchy, bigotry, misogyny and ring wing politics. I liked the journalism aspect of it all, and the format too. And especially the parts where nobody would listen to Safiya because she was a kid, even though she had evidence and (correct) suspicions about the killer, that rang true. What I didn't like is the time jumping. It happened with both perspectives, Safiya's and Jawad's. Eventually I just rolled with it, but it took me a few moments to remember that no, this didn't happen YET, it was just a flash forward etc. And it was also predictable in relation to the killer, but it would be perfect for younger teens who haven't read a lot of thrillers/mysteries yet. There was even a cameo appearance by a certain...character who's named after a famous person. I'm trying not to reveal too much here, so bear with me. It was a nice surprise, one I wasn't expecting. And finally Jawad's ghost. The scenes that tied Jawad to Safiya back when he was alive were beautiful, and tear inducing, so it makes sense that if he appeared as a ghost to anyone it would be Safiya. I just wish we knew how it was possible that she could see ghosts, it seems a bit out of place in a contemporary novel. This was my first Samira Ahmed novel, and I think it's about time I check the others out too. *Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review*

  3. 4 out of 5

    gauri

    Samira Ahmed weaves a story of mystery and Islamophobia in the most realistic way with hard hitting writing. rtc!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cody Roecker

    this is Samira's best book yet and one you truly cannot miss. this is Samira's best book yet and one you truly cannot miss.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Amani

    I just finished this book and it’s so haunting. It’s beautifully written and possibly my favorite Samira Ahmed book. Hollow Fires is an important book to read and it’s one that’s going to keep you up at night until you’re done. This book is a tear-jerker!! Thank you to NetGalley for an early copy of this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    ⛅ Saniya (sunnysidereviews) ⛅

    Speaking from the blurb alone, I just know this is going to hit close to home. Can't wait for this! Speaking from the blurb alone, I just know this is going to hit close to home. Can't wait for this!

  7. 5 out of 5

    umamah

    Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for an honest review! trigger warnings: islamophobia, racism, bullying, anti-semitism and nazi ideologies, physical violence, kidnapping, murder Hollow Fires is my favorite Samira Ahmed book to date! This book follows Safiya Mirza, a high school senior, as she tries to uncover the truth about what happened to Jawad Ali, a 14-year-old boy who goes missing shortly after being falsely labelled as a terrorist and experiencing harsh bully Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for an honest review! trigger warnings: islamophobia, racism, bullying, anti-semitism and nazi ideologies, physical violence, kidnapping, murder Hollow Fires is my favorite Samira Ahmed book to date! This book follows Safiya Mirza, a high school senior, as she tries to uncover the truth about what happened to Jawad Ali, a 14-year-old boy who goes missing shortly after being falsely labelled as a terrorist and experiencing harsh bullying. As the mystery unfolds, Ahmed explores important topics such as Islamophobia, racism, and the corrupt system of the U.S. that favors white supremacy over minority innocence. Firstly, I really enjoyed the format of the book! It was dual pov, featuring both the perspectives of Safiya and Jawad, which I felt helped to really shape the story and bring it to its full potential. It also included additional inserts, such as news reports, interview transcripts, and web article excerpts, which added an extra element to the story and clued the reader into things they didn't necessary get from Safiya and Jawad's narratives. Plus, the book was set in both the present and near future, which was really unique! With all of these different elements put together, Hollow Fires succeeded in being a engaging read. As for the characters, I adored both of them! Safiya was the perfect leading lady! So fierce, brave, and determined, it's no surprise she aims to be a journalist; she is everything a good journalist needs to be. I loved seeing how much she cared about Jawad and making sure he and his family got the justice they deserved, and it was incredibly inspiring to see the amount and degree of risks she was willing to take to ensure that justice was delivered. Jawad, too, was a wonderful character. His chapters were my favorite to read! While the media and the (*coughracistcough*) people in the book were relentless in their efforts to dehumanize Jawad, Ahmed made sure to humanize him through his chapters. Jawad was so brilliant and sweet and imaginative, and it broke my heart to read about the suffering this innocent soul had to endure. I also really liked the side characters, but I will say that I feel like Rachel and Usman kind of just disappeared towards the end? I feel Usman especially deserved a bigger presence in the end given his significant involved throughout the rest of the book. Other than that though, the characters were all great, and even with the antagonists, Ahmed did a great job with their characterization. I think the mystery was set up nicely and I liked the way it unraveled. I also enjoyed the way Ahmed incorporated important themes in this book. It made the book not only an enjoyable read, but an important informative one as well. ALSO, [REDACTED]'S CAMEO ??? THE GASP I GASPED OMG - did not see that coming, but omg i loved it. In conclusion, I would definitely recommend others to read Hollow Fires, especially for those who are fans of Karen McManus and Holly Jackson.

  8. 5 out of 5

    tee

    Wow. Just wow. How do I even write a review for this? It was just so good. So, so good.  When I tried to explain to people what this book is about, I sounded like a crazy person. It's part murder mystery, part ghost story, part romance, part exploration of how alt-right groups recruit teenage boys? Ahmed masterfully weaves together so many difficult topics that it's hard to say what it's about in any concise way. It's painful, it's beautiful, it's haunting. It shines a light on horrific topics wi Wow. Just wow. How do I even write a review for this? It was just so good. So, so good.  When I tried to explain to people what this book is about, I sounded like a crazy person. It's part murder mystery, part ghost story, part romance, part exploration of how alt-right groups recruit teenage boys? Ahmed masterfully weaves together so many difficult topics that it's hard to say what it's about in any concise way. It's painful, it's beautiful, it's haunting. It shines a light on horrific topics with sensitivity and grace and does so through the lens of two characters that are some of the most realistic I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Safiya didn't really know Jawad, and she still felt the pain of his loss deeply. Upon finishing this book, I too feel his loss as if I knew him. I cannot remember ever reading a book so impactful, so relevant, and so emotionally gripping. If I had my way, everyone would read this book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Brianna

    Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for the ARC. This was a deeply emotional, powerful YA read. Hollow Fires was my first Samira Ahmed book, but it definitely won’t be the last. Safiya and Jawad’s story had me captivated from page 1. Jawad Ali is a 14-year-old high schooler excited about creating things. When he brings his newly finished jetpack to school, he is unjustly labeled a terrorist by his teacher and arrested. Though Jawad is exonerated, he is forced to endure continued bullyi Thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for the ARC. This was a deeply emotional, powerful YA read. Hollow Fires was my first Samira Ahmed book, but it definitely won’t be the last. Safiya and Jawad’s story had me captivated from page 1. Jawad Ali is a 14-year-old high schooler excited about creating things. When he brings his newly finished jetpack to school, he is unjustly labeled a terrorist by his teacher and arrested. Though Jawad is exonerated, he is forced to endure continued bullying by classmates and teachers who have labeled him “Bomb Boy.” Safiya Mirza is the editor of her school newspaper with dreams of becoming a journalist. Once Safiya learns of the disgusting profiling Jawad was victim to, she uses her investigative journalism skills to try to give him the justice he deserves. Ahmed calls out the alt-right conspiracists, “alternative facts,” and the heated political climate from the last few years in this novel, weaving elements from real life effortlessly into the story. The unique format of the narrative will hook readers from the start—Ahmed alternates between Jawad’s and Safiya’s perspective, also including clips from news articles and interviews. This writing style kept me engaged throughout, and I will 100% recommend this book to others.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

    This book is an epitome of what fiction can do. I have not read such a powerful and intricate murder mystery in a while. The multi-media format is a great way to present a murder mystery story and this one utilized it really well. Other books like A Good Girl's Guide to Murder series and the Appeal also has this kind of mixed format storytelling. But this book by far is the most powerful in terms of its message. The exploration of Islamphobia, racism and xenophobia are heartbreaking. The author This book is an epitome of what fiction can do. I have not read such a powerful and intricate murder mystery in a while. The multi-media format is a great way to present a murder mystery story and this one utilized it really well. Other books like A Good Girl's Guide to Murder series and the Appeal also has this kind of mixed format storytelling. But this book by far is the most powerful in terms of its message. The exploration of Islamphobia, racism and xenophobia are heartbreaking. The author even introduced a ghost character who feels so three-dimensional in a way that didn't disrupt a story that is rooted in a logic mystery, and this supernatural aspect only add to humanize the victim of the murder and the tragedy, it's something so new and I have never encountered in books before.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    3.5 stars. This book was really hard to read but definitely important. I was FURIOUS 90% of the time.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Received advanced reader copy from publisher via Goodreads giveaway. "Truth: Reading helps you discover who you are. Reading makes you more empathetic." A journalist is supposed to find the facts, report the story, leave biases out of the story. Safiya dreams of becoming a journalist and loves her job as editor of the school newspaper. But, when she finds the body of a murdered boy, leaving her biases behind becomes impossible. The murdered boy? Jawad had built a jetpack out of recycled mate Received advanced reader copy from publisher via Goodreads giveaway. "Truth: Reading helps you discover who you are. Reading makes you more empathetic." A journalist is supposed to find the facts, report the story, leave biases out of the story. Safiya dreams of becoming a journalist and loves her job as editor of the school newspaper. But, when she finds the body of a murdered boy, leaving her biases behind becomes impossible. The murdered boy? Jawad had built a jetpack out of recycled materials and, when he brought it to school to show his after-school maker club advisor, another teacher thought it was a bomb. That jetpack got Jawad labeled as a terrorist—and killed. Prepare for the gut punch. Samira Ahmed packs a lot of emotion into her stories and this ripped-from-the-headlines tale is one hell of an emotional roller coaster. There are the trigger warnings for bullying, Islamophobia, white supremacy, and assault; I would add the warning that this is a reflection of recent events and the world we are living in. If you are looking for an escapist read, this is not the one. If you are looking to have your eyes opened and ideas challenged, grab this book and a stack of Post-it flags! I would highly recommend this for a book club. There is so much to discuss within its story—and it will lead to discussions of the world we live in. I hope it would also lead to talking about how we can make changes. While reading of Jawad’s creation and subsequent accusation & arrest, my heart broke. His joy and excitement were so quickly crushed by a teacher who jumped to a conclusion. Should we be cautious at schools and public spaces? Yes. Should we accuse blindly? No. {Note: The advance copy has a space left for a drawing of the jet pack that was mistaken for a bomb. I pre-ordered a finished copy and, after I get it, I will be flipping to the page to see for myself what the jetpack looked like.} Even after he was cleared of wrong-doing, Jawad’s life was in upheaval. He was labeled “Bomb Boy” and the bullying was relentless. It frustrates me that schools want students to tell teachers and leaders of bullying & abuse, yet I hear time and again how the “telling” does nothing other than make the person being bullied even more miserable—and bullied more! Jawad’s story illustrates this to a “T.” I was especially drawn to Safiya’s story as I had wanted to be a journalist as well. I loved reading about her persistence and tenacity, her drive to tell a story even when the school administration put their thumb down on the school paper’s publication. If I had one “wish” for the story, it would have been to read of Principal Hardy getting his comeuppance. A sharp reader will notice that there was mention in flash-forwards of a change in school leadership. But my “read the flashy/gossipy news story” self wanted the juicy details. But that is such minutiae in a book packed with wisdom, discussion points, and sentiment.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Karen Barber

    Due for release in early May, I’m grateful to NetGalley for giving me access to this prior to publication. From start to finish this had me hooked, and I think it is Ahmed’s most powerful book to date. It’s easy to feel outrage at the kind of privilege shown throughout this book. It’s easy to feel angered by the behaviour of the two young adults who plan, carry out and almost get away with their murder of a younger teen. It’s easy to feel the fire of injustice that forces Safiya into action. But Due for release in early May, I’m grateful to NetGalley for giving me access to this prior to publication. From start to finish this had me hooked, and I think it is Ahmed’s most powerful book to date. It’s easy to feel outrage at the kind of privilege shown throughout this book. It’s easy to feel angered by the behaviour of the two young adults who plan, carry out and almost get away with their murder of a younger teen. It’s easy to feel the fire of injustice that forces Safiya into action. But it’s also easy for many readers (and I probably count myself in this) to feel that anger and yet to not be further impacted by it. This is not part of my daily experience, and I fear that my ‘fire’ as I finished this book could be seen as ‘hollow’ if I don’t do anything with it. This is something I need to digest further. The story of Hollow Fires itself is a compelling one. It begins when Jawad, son of Iraqi refugees, is arrested when his English teacher believes the home-made Halloween costume he proudly takes into school is a suicide bomb. The absurdity of this situation stands out…but even after being cleared of all charges, Jawad is persecuted. He becomes known by the moniker BombBoy and the growing sense of unease felt by students who are not white is deftly portrayed through the character of Safiya. When Jawad goes missing, there is an appeal but the police quickly write him off as a run-away. Safiya has always wanted to be a journalist and she has an inquisitive nature that doesn’t allow her to blindly accept some of the things she’s told by those in authority. She is determined that people should not accept this version of events. Set against a growing backdrop of racially-motivated attacks, Safiya is convinced there is more to Jawad’s disappearance. When she finds his body wedged in a culvert in a little known part of the local park, Safiya knows that there’s more to this story than people are prepared to acknowledge. She takes it upon herself to try and get justice for Jawad, determined that those responsible will be held to account. There are issues with the way Safiya interferes with an ongoing investigation. The way certain characters behaved didn’t always seem realistic, and there’s still a part of me that feels the outcome of this case would not, in reality, have gone quite as it’s presented here. However, these were not enough of a distraction to prevent me from feeling this is a book I would highly recommend.

  14. 5 out of 5

    On the Same Page

    ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. CWs: Islamophobia, racism, murder One giant, endless conflict with a lot of nameless dead civilians. Killed by drones, which somehow made Americans feel less responsible, because drones aren’t people. But only a person can issue a kill command. This is my first book by the author, and one thing is very clear to me: she has something to say. She doesn't shy away from harsh truths, whether it's related to the politics ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. CWs: Islamophobia, racism, murder One giant, endless conflict with a lot of nameless dead civilians. Killed by drones, which somehow made Americans feel less responsible, because drones aren’t people. But only a person can issue a kill command. This is my first book by the author, and one thing is very clear to me: she has something to say. She doesn't shy away from harsh truths, whether it's related to the politics within the US that cause suffering in other countries, Islamophobia, racism, and double standards, or the discrimination between Muslims based on what sect they belong to. That's something I can definitely appreciate. One thing I learned by being invisible: People see what they want to see and decide it’s the truth. But it’s not. Let me show you. Here are some things people thought were bombs: A backpack. A sack lunch. A loaf of bread in a brown bag. A camera. An e‑cigarette. A science project about circuits. A clock. The story is told through two perspectives: Safiya, an aspiring journalist determined to get to the truth behind the string of threats and attacks on Muslims within her community, and Jawad, a young Iraqi boy who was murdered. Jawad's chapters, while shorter, almost always landed like a punch. Reading his perspective was honestly heartbreaking, and not only because we discover early on that he is dead, long before anyone thinks of his disappearance as more than a possible kidnapping. The discrimination he faced made my blood boil, and I wish incidents like this were fiction. Unfortunately, this is reality for a lot of Muslims living in the supposed lands of the free. The If a boy hits you, he probably likes you excuse. The If he calls you a bitch, maybe it’s because you rejected him line. Because it’s always, always the girl’s fault, right? Safiya's perspective was focused more on trying to find the perpetrator behind the attacks, hampered by a school principal who staunchly denies that anything is wrong. The pacing of the mystery is pretty satisfying, and although I called the twist pretty early on, that didn't detract from the story. There's a mixed media element here, where we get to see news articles and blog posts from different perspectives related to the Islamophobic attacks and Jawad's disappearance. I thought they were interesting until the very end; the last chapter is mostly written in this style, and it became too much for me to enjoy. Each chapter also starts with a mix of facts, truths, alternative facts, and lies. Unfortunately, this didn't work for me. Some of them were very vague, and others were too on the nose. As is often the case when it comes to books with Muslim characters, I was left wanting more from the representation. There aren't a lot of references to the Muslim characters practicing their faith, and I've lost count of how many fictional Muslim girls end up dating a white, non-Muslim guy.

  15. 5 out of 5

    USOM

    Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.) TW: racism, islamophobia, anti-Semitism I kind of knew Hollow Fires would break my heart from the premise alone. And then within the book, my heart got broken about 5 or 6 times. Hollow Fires is heart wrenching, but don't let that discourage you. This book deserves to be read. It's an examination of radicalization, islamaphobia, and fuels rage, but also provides hope. From the begin Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.) TW: racism, islamophobia, anti-Semitism I kind of knew Hollow Fires would break my heart from the premise alone. And then within the book, my heart got broken about 5 or 6 times. Hollow Fires is heart wrenching, but don't let that discourage you. This book deserves to be read. It's an examination of radicalization, islamaphobia, and fuels rage, but also provides hope. From the beginning, Ahmed explores not only explicit hate crimes, but also the implicit way people give perpetrators "second chances". Or the way they are unwilling to speak against them, to see their own biases. Being dual POV with Safiya and Jawad was going to wreck me. Spoiler alert, it did. Hollow Fires balances this chilling mystery and suspense - where is Jawad - with an examination of hatred and ignorance. Full of moments of fear in the pit of your stomach and rage in your heart, it's also has moments of levity and happiness, of romance and family moments. Piece of interviews sprinkled throughout the book heighten the suspense and atmosphere, while also looking at the events differently.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Skip

    An emotional YA novel about the injustice of racism and Islamophobia. Jawad Ali is a 14-year-old high school boy in a exclusive private school. In an afterschool program, he designs a jetpack costume, but a teacher calls the police fearing it is a bomb (spray painted 2 liter soda bottles) and Jawad is arrested, handcuffed and taken away by the police. And while he is exonerated, he is bullied and derisively called “Bomb Boy.” Then, he vanishes. Safiya Mirza, a scholarship student, is the editor o An emotional YA novel about the injustice of racism and Islamophobia. Jawad Ali is a 14-year-old high school boy in a exclusive private school. In an afterschool program, he designs a jetpack costume, but a teacher calls the police fearing it is a bomb (spray painted 2 liter soda bottles) and Jawad is arrested, handcuffed and taken away by the police. And while he is exonerated, he is bullied and derisively called “Bomb Boy.” Then, he vanishes. Safiya Mirza, a scholarship student, is the editor of her school newspaper who wants to be a journalist. Safiya is furious with the school's reaction, especially the principal's, which worsens when other acts of racism and vandalism, with references to Nietzsche proliferate. Meanwhile, the handsome captain of the swim teams starts pursuing her and wants her to go to the Winter dance. But, Jawad is reaching out to her, and she continues to pursue justice to the very end.

  17. 5 out of 5

    kate

    4.5* Powerful, moving and impossible to put down, this was one of the most compelling and (sadly) believable teen detective stories I’ve come across. Samira Ahmed has expertly crafted a social commentary based YA thriller with this stand-out and painfully relevant story exploring the horrifying affects of of islamophobia, xenophobia and the consequences of sweeping acts of white supremacy and race related violence under the rug. With its constant growing suspense, headstrong and brave characters 4.5* Powerful, moving and impossible to put down, this was one of the most compelling and (sadly) believable teen detective stories I’ve come across. Samira Ahmed has expertly crafted a social commentary based YA thriller with this stand-out and painfully relevant story exploring the horrifying affects of of islamophobia, xenophobia and the consequences of sweeping acts of white supremacy and race related violence under the rug. With its constant growing suspense, headstrong and brave characters and expert social commentary, I couldn’t recommend Hollow Fires more highly. TW: racism, islamophobia, xenophobia, hate crime, antisemitism

  18. 5 out of 5

    Fatima

    i cried. my heart hurts.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    this book was actually so good. the plotline, the characters, everything was so good and kept me at the edge of my seat throughout. definitely would recommend reading it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    haley ⊹

    3.5. in terms of tackling relevant issues, this book did a fantastic job. it was chilling - not because of the plot or characters but because of how realistic it is. topics like white supremacy, islamophobia and racism were explored so accurately that it hit me very hard as I read. that said, while the book was fast-paced, there were a lot of elements that I thought felt... weird? off? the whole ghost thing (while a nice sentiment) didn't read smoothly to me, and I felt that many of the characte 3.5. in terms of tackling relevant issues, this book did a fantastic job. it was chilling - not because of the plot or characters but because of how realistic it is. topics like white supremacy, islamophobia and racism were explored so accurately that it hit me very hard as I read. that said, while the book was fast-paced, there were a lot of elements that I thought felt... weird? off? the whole ghost thing (while a nice sentiment) didn't read smoothly to me, and I felt that many of the character interactions were forced and cringy. overall it was a solid read, more for its themes than anything else.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Living My Best Book Life

    Hollow Fires is a poignant young adult book that is heartwrenching and hopeful. I was completely blown away by this book and I hope I can write a review that does it justice. Safiya is a young adult who aspires to be a journalist. Her life turns upside down when she finds a body of a young boy who was missing. So, the story traces back to how this moment happens and starts at the beginning. Jawad is a young 14-year-old boy who loves to build things. He shows up to school one day in an outfit with Hollow Fires is a poignant young adult book that is heartwrenching and hopeful. I was completely blown away by this book and I hope I can write a review that does it justice. Safiya is a young adult who aspires to be a journalist. Her life turns upside down when she finds a body of a young boy who was missing. So, the story traces back to how this moment happens and starts at the beginning. Jawad is a young 14-year-old boy who loves to build things. He shows up to school one day in an outfit with a jetpack. It's supposed to be fun and innocent, but when his teacher reports his outfit as a bomb threat his life will never be the same. Shortly after the incident, Jawad goes missing. The story is told from the Jawad and Safiya's perspective. Jawad's perspective is a bit different because he is dead and trying to speak to anyone who will listen. He learns that Safiya might be the person to bring justice to the people who murdered him. What Safiya believes to be dreams or a weird voice in the back of her head, is really Jawad asking for help. The author does a fantastic job of making the whole story come together. I have to admit that there are multiple times that I had goosebumps and cried. It's timely because of the place we are in society especially when it comes to racism. To read about poor Jawad feeling alone and his body/soul not being able to rest broke my heart. I cried knowing how innocence and a young boy's life were taken away because of racism and a white person's superiority. But the author made the book feel hopeful for justice. By writing a strong female character with the will and perseverance to make things right, it takes readers on a journey of not only finding Jawad and his murderer but making people see how racism is still around us. I loved the dual perspective of both Jawad and Safiya. With Safiya, it is exciting to see her find her talent and see the future of her career as a journalist. You can see her heart throughout the book. She risks so much and follows the whispers because she knows how she can force change. By the last few chapters, I was rooting for justice. While the ending shows a few hard truths, it was done perfectly. Not only did the author highlight racism she is able to show how the color of your skin affects a person's innocence or guilt. It is sad to think that if two people in murder cases were on trial, both confessed, and the only difference was that one was white and the other was a person of color, the person of color is most likely going to be persecuted and punished more. I don't want to give too much away but when you read the final chapters, I hope you will understand. I give Hollow Fires 5 stars. It is powerful, gripping, and unputdownable. I said this before and I will say it again. I was completely blown away by this book. I don't think I have felt this emotional reading a book in a long time and I hope you all get a chance to read this book!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lila (derricoreads)

    I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Safiya Mirza, future journalist, knows that the disappearance of Jawad Ali is more than just another runaway teen. She knows it was more than just trying to escape the racist bullying of his peers and the Islamophobic prejudices of his teachers. She knows because Jawad's ghost told her. She knows because he led her to his body. Disgusted by the police's apathetic handling of Jawad's case, Safiya pu I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Safiya Mirza, future journalist, knows that the disappearance of Jawad Ali is more than just another runaway teen. She knows it was more than just trying to escape the racist bullying of his peers and the Islamophobic prejudices of his teachers. She knows because Jawad's ghost told her. She knows because he led her to his body. Disgusted by the police's apathetic handling of Jawad's case, Safiya puts it upon herself to find out the truth of what happened to him and bring those who killed him to light. With alt-right propaganda surfacing in her school and too many coincidences lining up, Safiya knows that Jawad's murder was a hate crime. And being part of the silent, complicit majority is not how she was raised. I love the way Ahmed bends the realistic fiction genre. Real-world events become the backbone of speculative storytelling. She takes no prisoners and calls out our world and its injustices the way they are. This book was a scathing commentary on "alternative facts," white coddling, and the way racism is ingrained into and justified by our society. The way fact and fiction combined to make this novel made it incredibly real and haunting. This happens. This is not fiction. Young, impressionable, white boys are regularly recruited by alt-right algorithms. Young, innocent children of color are regularly harassed, attacked, and unjustly killed. Our kids are not all right. Ahmed never misses for me. I love that she writes books for teenagers and encourages them to see their power. Teens are told time and time again to shut up and wait. Wait to grow up. Wait to mature. Wait to see what their parents do first. Wait to see what their teachers are allowed to teach them in school. These books are a reminder that the youth does have power. They know what is wrong and what is right, and they CAN do something about it. Ahmed's books should be in every classroom library.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Han

    This was such a heavy and heart breaking story that was extremely upsetting but also completely necessary. Sure, it was predictable but that only emphasises the realness of it all. It felt so grounded in the sickening reality of the world we live in today… all the injustice and hatred. It is such an important read that is so much more than a ‘murder mystery’. This is an honest letter to the world and how we must all do better to protect innocent victims of horrific crimes. The way the western me This was such a heavy and heart breaking story that was extremely upsetting but also completely necessary. Sure, it was predictable but that only emphasises the realness of it all. It felt so grounded in the sickening reality of the world we live in today… all the injustice and hatred. It is such an important read that is so much more than a ‘murder mystery’. This is an honest letter to the world and how we must all do better to protect innocent victims of horrific crimes. The way the western media depicts minority groups and defends the rich and white time and time again. This story also pointed something else out: How we always remember the names of killers but never the victims. It is stated in the author notes that this is based off the real life killing of Bobby Franks however when I searched his name, what pops up? A wiki page for the famous rich boy murderers. And this is so excellently highlighted in this story too, with the added layer of racism and prejudice and islamophobia. The way the media treats poor, poor Jawad as opposed to the murderers. It’s sickening. So yeah, this is such a great and powerful story that strongly reflects the truth of the world we live in and I highly recommend this to everyone, just please check the trigger warnings as it is a really hard hitting story and it WILL make you angry on so many levels.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mezka

    4.5/5 ⭐️ Thank you so much to the publisher and the author for granting me a copy of Hollow Fires in exchange of an honest review! TW: Islamophobia, death, m*rder, kidnapping, hate crimes, xenophobia, Neo-Nazism and police brutality. This wasn’t an easy read. The plot was was heavy, and I found myself going back to a thought I’ve had for many years: Islamophobia steeps into every part of our our lives. We’re not allowed to be creative, or live, without being careful. Jawad Ali, a fourteen year old s 4.5/5 ⭐️ Thank you so much to the publisher and the author for granting me a copy of Hollow Fires in exchange of an honest review! TW: Islamophobia, death, m*rder, kidnapping, hate crimes, xenophobia, Neo-Nazism and police brutality. This wasn’t an easy read. The plot was was heavy, and I found myself going back to a thought I’ve had for many years: Islamophobia steeps into every part of our our lives. We’re not allowed to be creative, or live, without being careful. Jawad Ali, a fourteen year old son of Iraqi refugees, built a jet pack. His teacher mistakes it for a bomb, a mistake that led to bullying and his death. Safiya Mirza, an aspiring journalist, is an editor at her school newspaper. Her job was to find stories, with no biases involved. But it becomes personal when Jawad goes missing. And the world doesn’t care as much as it should’ve. When Jawad starts whispering into her thoughts, she goes down a rabbit hole that leads her to question everything and everyone. She realises that sometimes, the enemy is much closer than you think. Hate is everywhere. Hollow Fires cleverly outlines the extent to which hate can drive people, while also bringing out the love of family and the community as a whole. The writing style was unique and it hit right where it should. Also, lately the endings of the books I’ve read have been…underwhelming. But the ending of this book was powerful and did justice for the rest of the book. I’m so grateful this book exists. Even now I’m struggling to put this into words because it was so moving. And familiar. And what makes it more heartbreaking is that it’s inspired by so many children like Jawad, whose lives completely changed because of the hate. Hollow Fires is out now. It will appeal to anyone who would like to read a powerful and gripping YA book 🥀

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stéphanie Louis

    “Hollow Fires” is written in a dual P.O.V. where we follow Safiya and Jawad during their journey and how their lives changed drastically. This book was such a powerful read and beautifully written. I couldn’t get enough of it and actually read it in one sitting. “Hollow Fires” has these useful time stamps in the beginning of the chapters, as the book is set in the present time and in the year 2023. Which is interesting as it shows in detail what’s going on. I really appreciated the time stamps as “Hollow Fires” is written in a dual P.O.V. where we follow Safiya and Jawad during their journey and how their lives changed drastically. This book was such a powerful read and beautifully written. I couldn’t get enough of it and actually read it in one sitting. “Hollow Fires” has these useful time stamps in the beginning of the chapters, as the book is set in the present time and in the year 2023. Which is interesting as it shows in detail what’s going on. I really appreciated the time stamps as it helped me understand the story better. I loved the writing style and can’t stop gushing about it. The mystery aspect of this novel was great as well, and I loved how everything came together in the end. As you’ve probably understood by now, I don’t even know how to write a review for this book, as I just loved it so much. “Hollow Fires” might even be my personal favourite of 2022, and I might recommend it to everyone that’s visiting the bookshop I’m working at. In conclusion, I highly recommend this book to everyone. “Hollow Fires” was such an important and interesting read that deserves all the praise. The only thing left for you to do is grab a cup of tea, some tissues, and please read this novel.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer S

    Excellent YA read about modern day American Islamophobia. Safiya is a high school senior attending a fancy prep school in Chicago on scholarship. She is the editor of the school newspaper, which gets hacked with white supremacist hate speech appearing online under her editor's column. Meanwhile, across town, 14-year-old Jawad is kidnapped and killed. Jawad was well known in the media after having been arrested with a home-built Halloween project (a jetpack) which was mistaken for a bomb. Safiya Excellent YA read about modern day American Islamophobia. Safiya is a high school senior attending a fancy prep school in Chicago on scholarship. She is the editor of the school newspaper, which gets hacked with white supremacist hate speech appearing online under her editor's column. Meanwhile, across town, 14-year-old Jawad is kidnapped and killed. Jawad was well known in the media after having been arrested with a home-built Halloween project (a jetpack) which was mistaken for a bomb. Safiya and her friends believe that the vandalism and hate speech at their school and the disappearance of Jawad are connected - but no one seems to hear the voices of the immigrant community. A painful book to read because it is so tragically real. Very impactful. Note: I don't know if there is an audiobook, but it would probably be excellent with two narrators speaking the parts of Safiya and Jawad.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Karen Parisot

    Heartbreaking story about racism, social injustice, money and privilege. This YA epistolary novel alternates between Safiya’s voice and Jawad’s. Safiya is a scholarship student at a prestigious private school with plans to go on to Northwestern and study journalism. Meanwhile she works for the DuSable Spectator, the school newspaper, where she tries her best to call out racism and the injustice of it all. Jawad was a fourteen year old Muslim boy who has been murdered. Safiya and friends try to f Heartbreaking story about racism, social injustice, money and privilege. This YA epistolary novel alternates between Safiya’s voice and Jawad’s. Safiya is a scholarship student at a prestigious private school with plans to go on to Northwestern and study journalism. Meanwhile she works for the DuSable Spectator, the school newspaper, where she tries her best to call out racism and the injustice of it all. Jawad was a fourteen year old Muslim boy who has been murdered. Safiya and friends try to figure out what happened to Jawad and who is behind a series of disturbing incidents at their school. The story flows well and has a solid cast of characters. Safiya is smart, brave, caring, and stands up to the bullies of the world. It’s a timely tale, well written and suspenseful. 4.25 stars

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bethe

    5 stars. Compelling mystery based on an actual case from 1924, with undertones connecting it realistically to current times. Safiyah is on thin ice with her columns on social justice at her elite Chicago prep high school. Her investigation into the disappearance of Jawad uncovers the ugly underbelly of racial injustice that hits close to home. If you like Maureen Johnson mysteries you will like this one as well, with a social justice themes and a touch of the supernatural. Excellent back matter 5 stars. Compelling mystery based on an actual case from 1924, with undertones connecting it realistically to current times. Safiyah is on thin ice with her columns on social justice at her elite Chicago prep high school. Her investigation into the disappearance of Jawad uncovers the ugly underbelly of racial injustice that hits close to home. If you like Maureen Johnson mysteries you will like this one as well, with a social justice themes and a touch of the supernatural. Excellent back matter and powerful author note. Soneela Nankani outstanding on audio.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    I have now read all four of Samira Ahmed's YA works. No two are alike, but in all, Muslim teens ask pertinent questions about the world they are inhabiting. The mysterious atmosphere of this book made it a page turner, but it is much more than just a whodunit. In searching for who killed Jawad, Safiya also confronts Islamophobia, misogyny, privilege and "affluenza." I also loved the pastiche technique and the sections written in Jawad's voice were particularly beautiful. This is another Ahmed bo I have now read all four of Samira Ahmed's YA works. No two are alike, but in all, Muslim teens ask pertinent questions about the world they are inhabiting. The mysterious atmosphere of this book made it a page turner, but it is much more than just a whodunit. In searching for who killed Jawad, Safiya also confronts Islamophobia, misogyny, privilege and "affluenza." I also loved the pastiche technique and the sections written in Jawad's voice were particularly beautiful. This is another Ahmed book that is not to be missed!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This had to be one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. Covering Islamophobia, racism, white supremacy, bigotry, et cetera; it’s a lot to take in. It highlights serious issues in the modern day in a fantastic way: combining the thoughts of Jawad, currently being kidnapped (and then, killed) with the thoughts of Safiya. This is paired with newspaper articles, “late-night” shows, police interrogation reports/recordings, et cetera. It shows all points of view, deception, and white privilege t This had to be one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. Covering Islamophobia, racism, white supremacy, bigotry, et cetera; it’s a lot to take in. It highlights serious issues in the modern day in a fantastic way: combining the thoughts of Jawad, currently being kidnapped (and then, killed) with the thoughts of Safiya. This is paired with newspaper articles, “late-night” shows, police interrogation reports/recordings, et cetera. It shows all points of view, deception, and white privilege through the prejudice against Jawad, a kid who brought a jet-pack costume to school and got arrested for carrying a “bomb”.

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