Review of ‘Detention’
A daring escape. A school lockdown. A thrilling
chase. What would you risk to save a life?
Author: Tristan Bancks
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Age Range: middle grade
Themes: refugees, immigration, asylum seekers, displaced persons, escape, realistic fiction, human rights, school, friends, family.
I have specifically chosen World Refugee Day (June 20) to post my review of the latest book by Tristan Bancks, ‘Detention’, which presents middle grade readers from 11+ with the complex issues surrounding refugees and immigration detention centres. As Tristan says here, “It can be hard for those of us living in free and wealthy nations like Australia to comprehend what that’s like to have to flee your home, and exploring that was a big part of why I decided to write Detention.”
In Australia, Refugee Week is celebrated annually from the Sunday to Saturday of the week which includes June 20. The aims of Refugee Week are to educate about who refugees are, understand the challenges they face, celebrate their many contributions, take action and do something positive for refugee to inspire hope, and reflect on services provided to refugees. You can read more about Refugee Week here.
This week in Year Five library we held a *MEGA* (held over three concurrent lessons) Refugee Week Literature Lesson. We devoured books with stories of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people, we deeply reflected, shared stories celebrating refugees in our community and we made cards of encouragement, support and welcome to be displayed at the multi-faith centre at a local university. Page 196 of ‘Raising Readers’ has a list of books I recommend on refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people.
‘Detention’ is a raw and authentic exploration of human connection. Tristan explores complex issues surrounding refugees and detention centres and offers details which are tough and confronting. He captures the divided feelings surrounding immigration, but in a way that young people can process, discuss and empathize with.
The novel challenges readers to think about the complexities of a world that deems what is ‘moral’ and what is ‘legal’ as being polar opposites. It is affirming in its representation of a younger generation who are able to grapple with such contradiction and to stand up for what is right, and leaves readers with a sense of optimism that things might one day change. Tristan’s writing is gripping, insightful and compassionate. The conclusion of ‘Detention’ is hopeful but realistic and young readers (and older ones!) will ponder its issues long after the final page is turned. It is outstanding, and I do not say this lightly.
You can read my review of Tristan’s previous book ‘The Fall’ here. Tristan is a masterful writer who can flit between funny and madcap books and serious and emotionally complex ones…but all of his books are fast-paced page turners with tight writing and characters who leap off the pages at the reader – you can see his other books here.