This is the story of Adam, a fourteen-year-old boy from Syria suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome. Living in Aleppo with his father, sister and three brothers (triplets) we meet Adam at the start of the country’s civil war. A war, according to Adam, that is ‘unfair’ with ‘no uniforms or clues’. The streets, once filled with the sounds of playing children are now empty and everything looks dusty. People hide, wary, cafes are abandoned and empty.
Adam, due to his condition, lives cocooned in his little world following patterns that allow him the most comfort and in which he can better cope with the people around him. Adam is naïve to the ways of the world, awkward in the presence of strangers and only leaves the house on a school day. He enjoys TV, and reading but as most people with this syndrome, he develops a passionate, intense, almost obsessive interest in painting. Unable to translate his emotions, due to his condition, he sees the world through a wide range of color tagging each event, emotion and person with a specific hue. His brother Khalid is orange, Tariq is teal and Isa is green and ‘that’s how I can tell them apart’.
As color is important in Adam’s life so it follows that the reader will get a sense of the atmosphere regardless of the fact that the narrator is of limited communicative skills. Adam narrates in a simplistic, even childish manner, yet the imagery he conveys is loud and clear, penetrating and resounding. He manages to draw a picture of the loss, the death, the carnage, and the mayhem of civil unrest. He loses family, friends, and those who he relies on for his survival. He recognizes the need for change and wills himself to adjust, succeeding at times, failing more often and it is tormenting to see such innocence trying to survive the most brutal of times.
This is a tragic story about war, loss and death with many many instances of gruesome, disturbing scenes of abduction, rape, and executions. An upsetting book that mirrors the ongoing plight and reality of the people of Syria and what innocent civilians are having to go through on a daily basis with no end in sight.
‘I have the urge to paint and I can already see the painting in my head. Two young boys lying in the water with their bodies spread open, free, but their faces disfigured, burnt. It would be a black-and-white painting with the faces a spectrum of colors. It’s going to be horrible and beautiful all at the same time.’ - Adam
Author Sumia Sukkar is a 21-year-old British writer of Syrian-Algerian ancestry. She grew up in London. This is her debut novel.