Borderline by Allan Stratton

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I'm currently in the midst of reading Allan Stratton's coming of age novel aptly titled Borderline, about a Muslim American boy who wants nothing more than to be accepted in his white suburban community. Out of the blue, the FBI suddenly accuses Sami's dad of being part of an international terrorist plot and things suddenly go from bad to worse when Sami's dad is thrown into jail, and his bullies go from calling him a 'sand monkey' to dumping his head in the toilet. When Sami realizes he has nowhere to turn to, he decides he needs to figure out if his dad is as innocent as he says. He then crosses the American and Canadian border with his friends Andy and Marty, easily on a boat through Thousand Islands. He ends up in downtown Toronto, and manages to lure in this so called terrorists sister, and tells her who his dad is. The woman wastes no time in getting Sami in front of the terrorist, the media was going crazy for. Borderline is a very real, compelling novel about acceptance and how as society we look at others. Allan tackled some very serious issues and carefully wove together some very heart pounding, jaw dropping moments; Such as, when Sami was blindfolded and taken to the location of where the terrorist his dad was accused of helping, was hidden from the FBI. Stratton's strange way of unfolding the plot line was addicting, and enjoyable. The novel examines what it must feel like to be a teenage boy living in an environment in which people of Middle Eastern background are suspect by virtue of their looks and religion. I would personally have been interested in Stratton's take on how these issues play out on our side of the border -as Canadians, we sometimes feel we are more liberal, and less prejudiced than Americans, but that may be a myth- he has clearly done his research on how the U.S. works in terms of terrorism, and citizens who are accused of this wrong doing can find them stripped of their legal rights. This leads me to think, the antagonist is the government and it's media. The ongoing key theme in the story is bravery itself. Sami's brave through all the hate showering him when his dad is accused of helping an international terrorist plot, he shines through even when his bullies threaten to beat him up. Later, when he finally decides he is going to prove not only to the FBI, but to himself, his dad is as innocent as he claims, we notice how courageous Stratton really made Sami to be. Having courage doesn't always mean dodging bullets, courage is having the mind to stand up for what you believe in. There are different characters we are introduced to, but one of the most interesting characters in the book is Mr.Bernstein, a gay history teacher at Sami's private school who has had his own share of harassment. At one point in the novel, I feel as if Sami needs someone to be his rock. To be there while he leans and spills all his worries, and that ends up being his history teacher. Mr.Bernstein later tries to explain how good people are sometimes accused of terrible things (obviously referring to Sami's dad being accused of helping an international terrorist plot) he says, "Thoughts aren't crimes. If they were, everyone on Earth would be in jail." (Stratton,283) It's great to see a credible fictional teacher giving such pearls of wisdom to a young man at a difficult and critical time in his life. Back in elementary school, I myself had a couple of teachers who were my rocks throughout my hard times. One of them was my former principal, and whenever I felt as if I needed space, she would allow me to hang around in her office and work in there. Needless to say, we had a close relationship. It felt comforting at the time, that I had such a person to depend on, even if it was just a little while. Bernstein eventually saves Sami from physical abuse at the hands of Eddie and his thugs (Sami's bullies) in the school washroom. As he consoles Sami on the washroom floor, a picture is taken with a cell phone and...
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