Sarah's Stars

Eric Walters. Alexandria of Africa
Doubleday  $14.95  ISBN 978-0-385-66639-8  200 pg.
Reviewed by Lindsey, Age 14

Renée led. I followed. Familiar pattern. We stopped in front of a building. It was nothing like the one we were constructing. This one was made of wooden sticks and mud and … what was that sticking through the mud by the door?

"Watch out for the barbed wire," Renée said.

That's what it was! But why would there be barbed wire there? That made no sense.

"To construct the older school buildings they drove wooden poles into the ground and then wrapped barbed wire around them to make a base," Renée said, answering my unasked question. "Then they packed mud and cow dung around the wire."

"Cow mean, cow poop?"

"Yes, it's sort of the mortar in the mix."

I shuddered. This building was being held together by cow crap. That was beyond disgusting.

Alexandria is spoiled rotten; she lives a fabulous life in California with her parents and as a single child, she is doted upon daily. She gets $200 a week for her allowance. She's eagerly waiting for her sixteenth birthday, where her new car (European, not American!) will be waiting for her on the end of the driveway. And naturally, she's the queen of gossip. But if Alexandria has all these nice things, more than she'd ever need in one lifetime, why would she steal a few cheap articles of clothing? That's the question the judge is asking her. "Because I just wanted them," is the snobby teenager's reply. And without remorse, the judge sends her off to Africa to work with an organization that takes volunteers and dispatches them into the nearby villages to build schools and houses. For three weeks Alexandria will have to face crazy God-fearing teenagers, no cell-phone reception, wild elephants and lions, the local villagers and buildings made out of poop. Maybe, just maybe, with a little focus and a lot of luck, Alexandria will learn a thing or two about herself and a lot about others.

Alexandria of Africa is a smooth read in the African heat. While not as heavy-hitting as other globally themed novels, it still gives readers some insight into the African culture and teaches us a few lessons about greed and laziness. At times Alexandria's snobbishness seems a bit forced and by the end of the summary on the back of the book you may know what the ending will be like but the journey to get there was very enjoyable indeed. While we can expect the snappy attitude, the obliviousness to a lack of electricity in the African wilderness and the designer clothing, the unexpected gems like a secret love of Star Trek and a gift with languages make Alexandria seem like a well-rounded character who really learns her lesson with humility. And even though we see the end from a mile off, there were still a few interesting twists thrown in and a very exciting climax.

Perfect for readers 12 and up, I give Eric Walters' Alexandria of Africa a solid three stars.


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