Today we’re thrilled to reveal the cover for Kicked Out by A. M. Dassu! The cover was illustrated by Daby Zainab Faidhi and designed by Sheila Smallwood. The book was edited by Stacy Whitman and will be released on April 23, 2024 by Tu Books. Preorder it here, here, and here. Keep scrolling for a Q&A with the author!
In this companion novel to the acclaimed Boy, Everywhere, A. M. Dassu returns to extend the story of Sami’s best friend Ali, who organizes a charity soccer match for their friend Aadam while his whole life is privately unraveling.
After their friend Mark’s mum wins the lottery and gets a giant house with an indoor pool, Ali and Sami have been having the time of their lives hanging at Mark’s house. Even their friend Aadam gets a job there, which means he can make more money for his legal battle for UK residency. But when some money goes missing, Aadam is accused of stealing it—and all three boys are unceremoniously kicked out of Mark’s house in suspicion.
On top of that, Ali’s dad, who abandoned the family when Ali was little, is suddenly turning up everywhere in town, and a half-brother Ali never knew has shown up at Ali’s school. Ali feels miserable and resentful about it, making it hard to be a good friend.
The boys know Aadam is innocent, and if he doesn’t raise thousands of pounds right away, he could get deported back to Syria amidst its civil war. At least Ali has a plan: they’ll host a charity football penalty match to raise money for Aadam so he can stay in the UK.
But can Ali pull together the match—even if he feels his whole life at home is falling apart?
What drew you to telling this story? Any specific inspirations?
I had no plans to write a sequel to Boy, Everywhere. But after numerous requests to write one, I one day visualized the opening chapter with Ali and the boys swimming in a heated pool in Mark’s mansion. Ali’s story spoke to me and it was visceral. I had to write it.
Kicked Out is a story about rejection, friendship, family, loyalty, belonging, being an ally, finding your self-worth and place in the world.
In this story, I wanted to get right back into the lives of Ali, Sami, Aadam and Mark and also explore some new themes, particularly what it feels like to grow up without a father and then have him come back into your life. How does someone navigate feeling rejected and the emotions that arise from it?
I also wanted to shine a light on the plight of unaccompanied minors and asylum seekers. It has been almost nine years since I first started writing Boy, Everywhere in 2015, and the rhetoric around refugees is now even more divisive and dangerous. Politicians and the media are still using refugees and asylum seekers to further their own agendas. I wanted to show how integration and adapting to a new life isn’t made as easy as we are led to believe.
This book explores the trauma of having an absent father. We’ve seen all sorts of representation in books, mostly bereaved children or children with divorced parents, but we rarely see the impact of an absent father, one who actively chooses not to be present in their child’s life. And you rarely see it from a Muslim or even South Asian character’s perspective because it’s something that’s never discussed, yet there are countless young people who don’t have a father in their life.
What was your first reaction to seeing the cover art?
I absolutely loved it! Firstly, I was overjoyed that Daby wanted to do this novel’s cover too, and I knew she’d bring her magic to it. Seeing that gorgeous deep purple and the way she depicted Ali looking forlorn on the steps of a mansion was just perfect!
What are you most excited to share with readers?
Boy, Everywhere looked at what it’s like to be a refugee and how hard it is to leave home. Kicked Out looks at what it’s like to be an unaccompanied young person and empowers readers, showing how we can all step up to help. I’ve even included some ideas in the back of the book on what we can do.
I hope, through Ali, readers will see how resilient young people can be, and that how people treat you or whether they choose to be absent from your life is not a reflection of you and has no bearing on who you are and who you will become. I hope anyone reading Kicked Out will feel inspired by Ali’s story and see that you have to first believe in yourself and the rest will all fall into place.
A. M. Dassu is the internationally acclaimed author of Boy, Everywhere and Fight Back, which have collectively been listed for 46 awards, including the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the Week Junior Book Award, the Carnegie Medal, The Little Rebels Award for Radical Fiction, the American Library Association Notable Book List and Jane Addams Peace Book Award.
She is a director at Inclusive Minds, which is an organization for people who are passionate about inclusion, diversity, equality and accessibility in children’s literature; a patron of The Other Side of Hope, a literary magazine edited by immigrants and refugees, which celebrates the refugee and immigrant communities worldwide, and one of The National Literacy Trust’s Connecting Stories campaign authors, aiming to help inspire a love of reading and writing in children and young people.
A. M. Dassu grew up in the UK dreaming of becoming a writer but studied economics instead and worked in marketing and project management before realizing her dream. She writes books that challenge stereotypes, humanize the “other” and are full of empathy, hope and heart. Her most recent book, Boot It! was a World Book Day novel, published in March 2023. You can also find her on Twitter @a_reflective or Instagram @a.m.dassu.