An agonising story, endorsed by Amnesty International, about two schoolgirls in Israel/Palestine. It is certainly not an easy read, but may be of interest to older teenagers who can identify with the protagonists.
What sort of person wakes up in the morning knowing for certain that they will die that day? Perhaps a death row inmate, or somebody about to receive euthanasia. Or a suicide bomber.
This story is about a Palestinian suicide bomber and one of her victims. In 2002, when the story is set, suicide bombings were relatively common occurrences, but what was notable about the true story this book is based on is that the bomber and victim were both schoolgirls. They were the same age, and looked so alike that a newscaster reported that they were sisters.
Although the story switches between many different perspectives, including that of Myriam, the Israeli girl (who is grieving her friend Michael who was also killed by a suicide bomber), the most interesting perspective is that of Dima, the Palestinian girl. Having witnessed many horrific events, including the shooting of one of her neighbours, she sends out the message that she is "ready for revenge". Events move very quickly from there, which lead to her just three days later entering a supermarket with a bag containing a bomb. She is confronted by a security guard, and sets off the bomb, killing the guard and also Myriam, who had come into the supermarket at the same time as her.
What does she think about within those three days? She tries to make herself remain gloomy, although she does have reasons, such as her imminent marriage, to feel hopeful. Most horrifyingly, she assesses that it is only worth her dying if she can kill at least one hundred Jews.
The story tries to be balanced, and neither side (whatever that means) comes out of it particularly well. But two people stand out as coming out well. One is Abraham, the security guard who is killed by Dima. Of course he knew that by confronting a possible suicide bomber he was risking his life, but by confronting Dima he prevented her from carrying out her intention to set off the bomb in the middle of a crowd.
The other is mentioned so briefly that you could miss her; Myriam's mother Shoshi has a telephone conversation (for which we only see Shoshi's side of the conversation) with a friend Vered, who is trying to persuade her to demonstrate for peace. Vered appears to be the only person in the book who can see an alternative to the bombings and destruction. In the acknowledgements at the back of the book, someone called Vered is mentioned -- perhaps this is the one character in the book based on a real person for which that person's real name is used. The existence of people like Vered give reason for hope.
Reviewed by Rebecca Warren, a Sophia Trustee and an environmental and human rights campaigner.