The one major positive thing that I can say for this book is that it’s well-written. It’s well-researched, well-planned out, and makes a very large effort to be well-balanced.
One of the things that I didn’t expect, and this may be a positive or negative factor in you deciding whether or not to read the book, is that there’s barely any focus on religion in this book at all. Rather, Habibi is mostly a cross between typical “coming of age” and “fish out of water” narratives, with a little bit of discussion of the conflict, but almost completely focused on ethnic rather than religious identities.
I’ve read a few YA books already about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, notably The Shepherd’s Granddaughter and Where the Streets Had A Name. Both of those, however, were written from the point of view of a Palestinian child; while The Book of Trees is also written from the point of view of a teenager, the narrator (Mia) is a bit of an outsider and an insider all at once (Canadian and Jewish), and not Palestinian. It’s because of her that character I wanted to read this book, thinking it would be nice to read about the conflict from a different perspective.
Joe Sacco’s “graphic novel” – I prefer the term “comic journalism” – is absolutely beautiful and painstakingly crafted to show a behind-the-scenes look at the Occupied Territories, otherwise known as Palestine. I remembered loving this the first time around, and now that I have more background knowledge on the conflict and on the Israeli occupation, I have to say that I enjoyed it more, because I could just give myself up to the reading flow without having to look things up and figure out what names, places, and dates were referring to.
This is the first Abdel-Fattah book that I’ve read, though I started reading a bit of Ten Things I Hate About Me before that and stopped when I got into something else. It was an absolutely fantastic introduction!