When their flights are grounded at a busy airport, the lives of four kids (Feek, Sami, Hanna, and Nora) collide. Hanna is occupied with finding a famous, recently lost cat and manages to rope the other kids–including anxious Sami–into her investigation. In addition to that, the kids have to overcome challenging family situations and are also Muslim. Feek just wants to be seen as a serious poet by his famous poet/rapper dad, Hanna is avoiding the conversation of a potential remarriage for her dad, Nora isn’t sure she’s Muslim enough, and Sami can’t seem to escape his anxiety, even with karate.
I loved this book, and when I read You Are Here: Connecting Flights, it reminded me a lot of Grounded. Unlike You Are Here, this one is a full novel, written alternately from four different perspectives. If you’ve read S.K. Ali’s Love From A-Z, Hanna is Adam’s little sister(!), and she mentions his girlfriend, Zainab, a few times throughout the story–which I found thrilling.
The authors explore several important themes through the kids’ lives, and I loved how distinct each character was. Hanna’s obsession with the missing cat starts off silly, but eventually, the kids uncover something serious about the situation. Feek feels burdened by having to watch his sister all the time, but she adds some extra levity to the story and keeps readers entertained.
Sami was my favorite character. Although very anxious, he kept stepping outside his comfort zone throughout the story–which is typical of many people with anxiety. It can make a person feel small and fragile, but it’s amazing how much one can surprise themselves.
Finally, Nora was missing her mother’s attention–as a Congresswoman with Muslim ties, there’s greater pressure to prove herself. She also dresses differently from other Muslims and isn’t as religious about Muslim practices and has to grapple with why that is. Ultimately, the plot is well-paced, and the ending is super satisfying.
Grounded by Aisha Saeed, Huda Al-Marashi, Jamilah Thompkins Bigelow, and S.K. Ali is a heartwarming, fun, and moving airport adventure. This exceptional middle grade book blends all four writers’ strengths, creating unique and relatable protagonists that readers will be rooting for all the way. It also goes a long way to show that diversity exists even within the Muslim community and is a great read for anyone looking for middle grade books by Muslim authors.