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A Good Country

By: Laleh Khadivi
Recommended for grade(s): 12, College Plus

Laguna Beach, California, 2011. Alireza Courdee, a 16-year-old straight-A student and chemistry whiz, takes his first hit of pot. In as long as it takes to inhale and exhale, he is transformed from the high-achieving son of Iranian immigrants into a happy-go-lucky stoner. He loses his virginity, takes up surfing, and sneaks away to all-night raves. For the first time, Reza–now Rez–feels like an American teen. Life is smooth; even lying to his strict parents comes easily. But then he changes again, falling out with the bad-boy surfers and in with a group of kids more awake to the world around them, who share his background, and whose ideas fill him with a very different sense of purpose. Within a year, Reza and his girlfriend are making their way to Syria to be part of a Muslim nation rising from the ashes of the civil war. Timely, nuanced, and emotionally forceful, A Good Country is a gorgeous meditation on modern life, religious radicalization, and a young man caught among vastly different worlds. What we are left with at the dramatic end is not an assessment of good or evil, East versus West, but a lingering question that applies to all modern souls: Do we decide how to live, or is our life decided for us?  –From Bloomsbury

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