On the surface, Eight Days is a road trip from Toronto to Chicago with a diverse characters and an unfortunate set of circumstances. Underneath the surface, it’s a story about judgement, racism, addiction, forgiveness, guilt, shame and feeling “haram”–an Arabic term that means forbidden or unwanted. For Sami (the 14-year-old main character) it’s about finding your family, your voice and your tears. For Carl (Sami’s grandfather) It’s about the difference between dry and sober and facing your demons. Above all, it’s about love.
Teresa Toten covers a lot of ground in this middle grade novel, from the death of Sami’s mother–even though Sami thought she’d been dead for ten year–to AA meetings. A lot of the book is a slow reveal of hidden truths but there’s a few twists that keep readers engaged till the end.
Richly drawn characters and well-researched details create an immersive reading experience. During the formal visitation planned by the neighbours, I could see the candles, smell the incense and hear Sami and Carl’s “shukran”. A lot of cultural and religious information is explored without feeling forced andI love the way the visitation was adapted to suit the various beliefs of the diverse people living in the Towers, a Muslim-dominated apartment complex in Toronto.
The Unlikely Hero of Room 13b will probably always be my favorite (young adult) novel from Governor General award winning author, Teresa Toten. Eight Days is a great addition to the middle grade bookshelf.