My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Initial reaction: Wow, this book was very good. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did, and I thought it was a very realistic, eye-opening look at two boys with rooted prejudices that learn to become friends over some rather tough events. The story itself is quite character focused and I personally love these kinds of stories, but what really hit home with me was how well McKay touches on the divisions and assumptions between groups without forcing the ideals down the throat of the reader. I need to mull over my thoughts with it a little longer, but I seriously think it’s one that many young adults (and even beyond that group) should read.
Sharon E. McKay’s “Enemy Territory” proved a quick, but powerful reading experience for me personally. In reading quite a few novels as of late having to do with prejudices, the division between groups, and stereotypes regarding those groups, I have to say McKay’s effort really managed to illustrate the heart of its portrayal in a sensitive and illuminating way, even in its brevity. It’s not an easy read for comfort if you’re aware of the intimacy of these conflicts and how deep they run, but the portrayal here is very well drawn and there are appropriate occasions where the characters knock these misconceptions down and make you think about the way they come across.
The story depicts two boys – Yusuf, a Palestinian teen, and Sam, an Israeli teen, who both end up in the hospital with significant injuries and clash almost at the moment that they meet each other. Each has a fair degree of biases and misconceptions about the other, and they’re not afraid to make their heated contentions known. However, as the two spend more time with each other and have a coming to terms, they form a bond that gradually develops into acceptance, and ultimately friendship as they take on a brief journey that gets them lost in the heart of the city and among a few dangerous encounters.
I really appreciated the combination of humor and character insight McKay gave in this story. It’s detailed enough to provide a clear essence to the characters and the backdrop of the story, but flows smoothly enough to be a quick read for anyone picking it up. I didn’t see some of the illuminations this tale had to provide until they hit, and a few times it either made me laugh or made me think about the way an event occurred that didn’t come across the first time around. Yusuf and Sam both became characters I identified well within the spectrum of the story, and I understood their contentions and inner conflicts long after it ended. I think the only part of this story that left me wanting a little more was the ending, not because it didn’t tie up the loose ends it established, but because of the slight narrative jump that felt a little quick to me in comparison to the rest of the story. Still, that was a minor nitpick compared to the way this tale immersed me and didn’t release until the end. I enjoyed the journey, the illumination, and the insight McKay provided in this novel, and I would certainly recommend it not only to those who are in its respective audience group (young adult), but also beyond that and to anyone who wants a solid story of friendship, coming of age, and breaking past the prejudices that exist in our society.
Overall score: 4/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Annick Press.