AS LONG AS THE LEMON TREES GROW
Young Adult Historical Fiction
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 432 pages
Publication Date: September 13, 2022
Salama Kassab was a pharmacy student when the cries for freedom broke out in Syria. She still had her parents and her big brother; she still had her home. She had a normal teenager’s life.
Now Salama volunteers at a hospital in Homs, helping the wounded who flood through the doors daily. Secretly, though, she is desperate to find a way out of her beloved country before her sister-in-law, Layla, gives birth. So desperate, that she has manifested a physical embodiment of her fear in the form of her imagined companion, Khawf, who haunts her every move in an effort to keep her safe.
But even with Khawf pressing her to leave, Salama is torn between her loyalty to her country and her conviction to survive. Salama must contend with bullets and bombs, military assaults, and her shifting sense of morality before she might finally breathe free. And when she crosses paths with the boy she was supposed to meet one fateful day, she starts to doubt her resolve in leaving home at all.
Soon, Salama must learn to see the events around her for what they truly are—not a war, but a revolution—and decide how she, too, will cry for Syria’s freedom.
Content Warning: on page death and sexual assault. As well as, descriptions of torture, child abuse and torture, PTSD, starvation, and general descriptions of the horror that comes with war.
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Simply an amazing debut novel based on the ongoing conflict and atrocities in Syria!
As Long As the Lemon Trees Grow is the amazing debut novel by Syrian author Zoulfa Katouh. It is a gripping tale from start to finish and exudes the ever-present fear of the main characters and their neighbors. The story is absolutely heart-wrenching and made even more so with the understanding that it is based on actual events and ongoing conditions in Syria. The tension was constant from the beginning but continued to build as the story unfolded. The author doesn’t pull any punches. There is no softening of the blows of the revolution’s impact on the characters or the reader. There is death and danger at every turn of the page. I had to step away from the story to recover before going on. I can’t imagine the reality of those that cannot.
The story is told in first-person from Salama’s point of view, so we are privy to her thoughts and feelings. The effects of her PTSD manifest themselves in Khawf, who shows up at all hours of the day or night to harangue and taunt her. But Salama is an extraordinary and extremely likable young woman, a real underdog everyone will want to succeed. Amid her desperate daily life, romance finds its way to her, and it is accomplished in a most natural way and satisfying way.
The story isn’t all heartbreak; there are moments of joy and recollections of good times. There are descriptions of life in pre-revolution Syria, college memories, friends and family, food and drink, and mentions of the glories of Syria’s past. Layla and Salama have been best friends since childhood, and they still have some BFF moments, sharing secrets and giggling together when they can, although, under the circumstances, this is infrequent. (This book also presents one of the biggest and most shockingly blindsiding twists I have ever encountered in a plot. All I will say is I totally did not see that coming.)
With its engaging heroine and other main characters and tense, desperate plot, I highly recommend AS LONG AS THE LEMON TREES GROW to readers of young adult fiction and suspense, especially those who enjoy stories based on actual events. Please note that the subject matter is tough and comes with a list of content or trigger warnings.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Zoulfa Katouh is the only person in her family who can’t roll her tongue, but that’s okay because she writes characters who can do so. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Drug Sciences. She is trilingual in English, Arabic and German. Zoulfa currently resides in Switzerland where she finds inspiration in the Studio Ghibli picturesque scenery.
Ever since her Mama gave her a copy of Anne of Green Gables when she was eight years old, she discovered the beauty of books. Soon enough she was sneaking books under her school desk to read while teachers went on about Math and Physics. Her imagination grew, and one day, she had the courage to pen down the stories that roam her mind. And she never stopped!
Her speculative contemporary YA debut AS LONG AS THE LEMON TREES GROW comes out September 13th by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and September 15th by Bloomsbury Kids & YA UK, making her the first Syrian YA author to be published in the US and UK. She is represented by the warrior queen Alexandra Levick at Writers House.
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