Alia Waking by Laura Williams McCaffrey;
Clarion Books: New York, 2003; $15
Your lifelong dream dangles before your eyes. You reach for it and almost grasp it, but alas, you still have to watch the baby for your mother and scrub the floors. If there's extra time in between chores, you might find an opportunity to sneak off for a bit and chase that fantasy. Not that it's likely you'll get anywhere at that rate.
This scenario is true for Alia Cateson in Alia Waking. For all her life, Alia has wanted to become a warrior, a keenten. However, her mother needs help with the chores at home, and Alia has to spend almost all her time mending clothes and doing other household duties. She'll be thirteen soon, and that's the age when keentens choose girls to join them. If she isn't chosen, she might have to spend the rest of her life cooking and cleaning.
War has plagued Alia's world for years. Her kingdom, Tram, is at war with a neighboring land called Beech. All of Trant despise Beechians, and when Alia and her friend Kay find two Beechian children in the woods, they're immediately thought of as spies. The Beechians are locked up, and everyone assumes they'll be executed. I thought it was horrible that the villagers all thought it would be OK to kill children.
Prejudice is an issue in Alia Waking. The Beechian children found in the woods are supposed to be spies simply because of where they come from. I think this is very similar to some of the issues happening right now. Since the September II terrorist attacks, Arab Americans are being discriminated against because of the way they look.
Peer pressure also comes up in this book. Alia wants to help the Beechian prisoners when they're ill, but Kay disagrees. The boy has a hurt foot, so Alia wants to bring him rags to wrap it up. It's wintertime and the prison is cold. Kay says, "Would they have done the same for your brothers?" Alia's elder brothers died fighting Beechians in the war. But Alia brings rags and gets a healer for the sick girl, anyway. Kay becomes extremely angry with her and hangs out with another girl instead of with Alia. The two whisper together and play games Alia and Kay once did. Alia knows she did the right thing, but can she make Kay understand? And if Kay refuses, can Alia let her best friend go? I think Alia was really strong to stand up to her best friend, and I admire her courage throughout the book.
I found it annoying that all the housework is left to the women and girls in Alia Waking. I know real life was like this for a long time, but it was still frustrating that Alia had trouble following her dream because of a huge workload, while her brothers did whatever they wanted. Reading this book makes me appreciate how lucky I am that chores are spread out in my family and that whether you're a boy or a girl, you still have an equal amount of work to do.
This book is filled with values, from acceptance of people regardless of race to standing up to peer pressure. All the conflict Alia experiences really pulled me into the book; I wanted to know how it ended. If you're looking for a good read, try Alia Waking.