Sunday 27 September 2020

BOOK REVIEW: The Learner's Plight by Muhammad Hamza Shah

The Learner's Plight
Author: Muhammad Hamza Shah
Genre: YA Coming of Age / Contemporary Fiction / Short Story
Publication Date: 5th July 2020

Book Description:
Gavin Hawthorne has recently emigrated from Ireland to United States and is faced with an uphill battle to fight against blatant indifference. He undergoes rampant bullying at the hands of school’s athletic team and finds temporary solace in Linda, another student who has just arrived from Poland. However, this dependency doesn’t last for long as Gavin is plunged into the world of depression, stuck in a vicious cycle of self-hatred.

In harrowing times like these, a close acquaintance becomes his much-needed ally and helps Gavin re-discover fondness for the gift of life.

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Gavin and Linda share a lot in common having both emigrated from across the other side of the ocean, so it's no surprise that they start hanging out and become besties. What is surprising, however, is when Linda decides to shift gear and leave Gavin behind, hanging with the school bullies who make Gavin's life a living hell every day. Gavin is left puzzled and heartbroken, wondering what he has done to cause her to ditch him for his arch-nemesis. As Gavin sinks deeper and deeper into depression, he finds solace in a fellow student, who encourages and supports him as he builds the courage to stand up to the bullies and tell Linda how he really feels about her, the fear of losing her forever weighing heavy on his mind.

This was a very moving and heartfelt exhibition of Gavin's insecurities and how he learns to accept that life sometimes doesn't go as planned or as hoped but that you can't wallow, you have to pick yourself up and carry on, even if it means losing the things most dear to us. Although it was a good read, I didn't feel a connection with the character as it felt as though it was exactly that, an exhibition. I felt as though I was viewing everything through a window and not having a clear vision of the events taking place on the other side. The story felt somewhat hollow, which had nothing to do with the length or the cliffhanger ending (I really liked the way it ended, by the way). We know what happened between Gavin and Linda. We even get to witness her rejecting him and left wondering whether or not she will ever respond to his letter, that maybe somewhere down the line they will find their way back to each other. I'm not expecting a long explanation, but if there had been some form of revelation, I believe it would have felt more complete and I would have better understood the incentive behind some of Gavin's action and better identify the moment that made him realise that now was the time to stand up for himself and let life takes it course.

Having said that, there was enough content and ingredient to keep me reading on. Betrayal was the key emotion throughout, which I comprehended, but it was missing that revelation that would cement the bond I was building with Gavin; instead the bond fizzled out. I wanted to connect with Gavin. I really did, because I liked him as a character. He was someone I think a lot of people would be able to relate to. I liked Shah's writing style. The choice of words and sentence structure throughout evoked a lot of emotion. I felt pulled in by his writing, which doesn't happen to me often, and I think it's one of the reasons I kept reading.

I think there's a lot more to come from this author. I got a Markus Zusak vibe by the connection I felt to Shah's authorial voice. I am not certain where the inspiration for The Learner's Plight came from, but it almost felt as though I was reading a memoir. I look forward to reading more from this author.


Award: Silver
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Source: Courtesy of BookSirens

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