Summary: Ahmed Aziz’s Epic Year
Ahmed Aziz’s Epic Year chronicles Ahmed’s experiences in the school year after he and his family move from Hawaii to Minnesota. Ahmed’s dad has hereditary chronic hepatitis (a liver disease) that has led to cirrhosis (permanent liver damage). He has come to Minnesota where a clinical trial may be able to keep him from dying.
There, Ahmed runs into a school bully who happens to live in his neighborhood and is in Ahmed’s class where their zealous English teacher makes them read and discuss three classic middle grade books, including Holes and The Bridge to Terabithia. During the course of the year, Ahmed finds parallels between his life and the stories and learns that sometimes, change isn’t the worst thing.
This was a really good book with a strong classic feel. The author uses the age-old year-long exploration as we meet Ahmed and his family and go to school with him. I liked getting to know Ahmed and understanding his sometimes cynical sense of humor. He’s understandably frustrated by Minnesota, the cold, the mean kids, and just being the new kid in school. And he hates reading — so just imagine how frustrating a zealous English teacher would be!
Ahmed isn’t dull, he just isn’t a big fan of reading, so I loved watching him — not become a book worm, but — develop a greater appreciation for books and stories. I also think the author did a great job of highlighting parental illness (and a serious one at that) without making things super sad. Readers get a glimpse at Indian culture and Muslim religion through Ahmed’s parents. I loved the narrative arc of Ahmed’s late uncle with who he discovers he shares a bond beyond physical resemblance.
Other things I enjoyed were the way the author resolves Ahmed’s bullying, his relationship with his precocious sister, the friendships he forms (and one with a boy in a wheelchair — good disability rep), and the satisfying resolution of the story overall. I started reading the eARC but finished the audiobook a couple of days after it was released. I would definitely recommend audio over reading it.
Overall: Ahmed Aziz’s Epic Year
Ahmed Aziz’s Epic Year is a realistic, moving middle grade coming-of-age story about moving to a new city, rediscovering your roots, and coping with parental illness. This book is perfect for fans of funny books with inventive teachers and stories about being the new kid. If you like books with Muslim protagonists, sweet sibling relationships, and stories centered around books and libraries, you’ll enjoy this one.