The Runaways, by Fatima Butto
Published by Penguin, 19th March 2020 (first published 7th March 2019)
Genres: Contemporary fiction, cultural, religion, war
Three young people from very different backgrounds are on the verge of making a decision that will change them and their lives forever.
Anita lives in Karachi’s slums and despairs of ever escaping and making something of her life. Monty is rich, spoiled and privileged. His life is easy and carefree until he meets a girl who will change everything. Sunny is a second-generation immigrant living in the UK. He does not fit in anywhere and feels suffocated by his father’s expectations.
It is not obvious from the description, but this is a book about the different circumstances and ways in which young people are influenced to join the jihad and fight for Islam in the Middle East. This is not an easy book to read and it contains some quite difficult material.
Honestly, I felt a little misled as I starting reading, as I was not expecting this book to go in this particular direction. I suppose that is the point, as there is no single, stereotypical person who becomes an Islamic extremist fighter. Their paths are many and different.
I struggled also with the characters. I found them difficult to believe in and engage with and, as a result, I was not really invested in the conclusion of their stories. That being said, one character arc was interestingly handled and I found it very well done. I know that is really vague, but I don’t want to give any spoilers.
I did, however, enjoy the structure of the book, told from the three perspectives in their own chapters.
Unfortunately, this was quite disappointing and I can’t even properly explain why.
My rating: 3/5