Rebekah Shaid, Seven days, Walker Books Australia, January 2024, 300 pp., RRP $19.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781529513967
This is a book about grief and about families. Rebekah Shaid’s debut young adult novel is a diverse, lively story set in Bristol, with feisty characters struggling with a number of issues. It takes place over the course of seven days (although with a epilogue set one year on), and introduces us to the two narrators, Noori and Aamir, and the people closest to them.
Of course, the two people each is most attached to have both recently died: Noori’s cousin and Aamir’s mother. It’s been hard on both of them, but it’s clear Aamir is the most troubled. He winds up in Brighton after a devastating argument with his father and has come looking for reassurance from his older brother Bilal.
Noori meets him on her favourite park bench, a place she spent much time with Munazzah, her slightly older cousin and best friend. Munazzah died in Lahore, India so Noori feels no sense of closure. At the end of the week, she plans to travel to Pakistan and stay with her auntie and attend school for a year, in an attempt to come to terms with her loss. Her father is not convinced this is the best idea, so she is angry with him, and meeting Aamir offers a distraction and some intrigue.
Noori’s chapters tend to be longer and more in depth. Aamir is not as open, nor as supported. Their interactions are somewhat contrived, helped along by a mugging that leaves Aamir without any money or phone. When he visits Bilal’s apartment, there is no one home, which forces him to seek out Noori each day. But their growing attraction is well handled. Readers don’t feel rushed into the relationship as both Noori and Aamir initially mostly, only argue.
It’s easy to get caught up in their world. The writing is detailed and immersive. At the beginning, Shaid uses some quirky expressions, but as the story progresses, these are less frequent, and the characters draw us in to their struggles and we are keen to see how it’s all resolved. Secrets are slowly revealed and in due course, we feel like we know these two troubled teenagers who tell each other truths they would rather not confront.
Schools with multicultural communities will appreciate a book like this because it offers a cultural perspective that is different and authentic. The characters sound like teenagers and their concerns and worries are universal. The ending is mostly satisfactory, although there were some questions that remained unanswered. But overall, it’s a great read and would be enjoyed by readers who enjoy young adult novels by S K Ali, Sandhya Menha and Nic Stone.
Reviewed by Trish Buckley