Naeem can sense the clicks of surveillance everywhere he goes. Cameras on poles, police cars parked outside Mosques, and unknown watcher hidden in the community. There is always someone watching his immigrant neighborhood in Queens. Naeem isn’t much of a rule follower. So when he get caught in a sticky situation and the cops offer him a deal, he must decide if he’s willing to become a watcher and spy on his neighbors.
Watched by Marina Budhos is a timely and important novel about surveillance and Islamophobia. It explores what it is like for teenage immigrants to grow up under surveillance and the effects it has on both the watchers and the watched. Naeem is a wonderful character with a great heart. He wants to be a hero like the characters in his brother’s comic books. Yet he’s struggling to find a place where he belongs in his community. You can’t help but feel empathy and compassion for him.
Verdict: Inspired by real issues and events, this novel has much to teach about the cost of today’s surveillance culture. If you’re looking for a book with a strong male character who must overcome adversity and prejudice, then read Watched.