Bairdston by Robert Cook
Published Dec 7, 2015
Karim and Salima Kufdani are two orphaned street kids from Tangier, Morocco. They are rescued from anonymity by Alejandro Muhammad Cuchulain (Cooch) and educated by his team, which include a martial arts expert and a mathematical genius. After spending some time with them, they are shipped off to a Scottish boarding school called Bairdston to receive a more rounded Western education. But will they be able to survive this new climate, in the face of racism and bullying? Recommended for ages 14+, 2-1/2 stars.
I originally picked this book because I thought the subject matter was interesting. Two Muslim kids from Africa trying to adapt to life in the bitter cold of a Scottish boarding school. What I did not know until I read someone else’s review and the author’s note at the end of the book (which really should’ve been in the beginning), was that this story came from a brief mention in the author’s last book Pulse, an adult thriller. That book is all about Cooch, a half-American/half-Bedouin former CIA agent who becomes the guardian for the teens in this book. You could tell that the author had never written a book for teens before as the writing was pretty dry and didn’t really draw you into the lives of the characters, but kept things mostly on the surface. I didn’t feel like this book had an ending; the story just sort of stopped. Karim and Salima are pretty viciously bullied by teachers and students alike, but nobody seems to want to help them, with the exception of their caregivers and that response is pretty brutal. The only time Islam is really mentioned is at the end when Karim tries to “educate” his teammates on what Islam is and really means. Honestly, the only part I found really fascinating is when Karim joins the soccer team and the author vividly describes a soccer game that the team has with a rival team, and really puts you in the minds of the players.