On My Bookshelf: Code of Honor by Alan Gratz

September 12, 2016

In Code of Honor by Alan Gratz, Kamran Smith used to have it all: a starring role on the football team, a beautiful girlfriend, the title of Homecoming King, a loyal best friend, and a spot at West Point in the fall. But after his brother is named as a suspected terrorist, Kamran and his parents are deatined by Homeland Security and Kamran must fight to prove to everyone, even himself, that his brother is innocent. Read on for more of my review and ideas
The basic plot from Amazon: Kamran Smith has it all. He's the star of the football team, dates the most popular girl in school, and can't wait to enlist in the Army like his big brother, Darius. Although Kamran's family hails from Iran, Kamran has always felt 100% American. Accepted.
And then everything implodes.

Darius is accused of being a terrorist. Kamran refuses to believe it, but the evidence is there -- Darius has been filmed making threats against his country, hinting at an upcoming deadly attack. Kamran's friends turn on him -- suddenly, in their eyes, he's a terrorist, too.

Kamran knows it's up to him to clear his brother's name. In a race against time, Kamran must piece together a series of clues and codes that will lead him to Darius -- and the truth.

But is it a truth Kamran is ready to face? And is he putting his own life at risk?

Why I liked it: At the start of Code of Honor, Kamran is your typical all-American boy hero. He's the star of the football team and Homecoming King, he has a beautiful girlfriend, tickets to the upcoming Super Bowl game with his best friend, and he is headed to West Point in the fall. All of that changes when Kamran's brother Darius, a West Point graduate and Army Ranger stationed in Afghanistan, is seen on video taking responsibility for a terrorist attack on the United States embassy in Turkey.

In Code of Honor by Alan Gratz, Kamran Smith used to have it all: a starring role on the football team, a beautiful girlfriend, the title of Homecoming King, a loyal best friend, and a spot at West Point in the fall. But after his brother is named as a suspected terrorist, Kamran and his parents are deatined by Homeland Security and Kamran must fight to prove to everyone, even himself, that his brother is innocent. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.While at first Kamran is in shock and cannot believe this about his brother, there are times when his belief (as well as the reader's) wavers as the government presents Kamran and his parents with suspicious details about Darius's activities leading up to the attack. The fact that Darius continues to appear in terrorist videos
doesn't help his case either.

Besides questioning if Darius is a willing terrorist or a captive forced into action against his will, the team sent  to help Kamran find his brother is also full of questionable characters. JImmy is an ex-hacker now employed by the government, Dane was discharged from the Army for admitting drug use, Aaliyah has ties to royalty in Jordan and suffer from post-9/11 discrimination, and even Mickey, a CIA agent, could have ties to Irish rebels. A series of near-death misses make it clear that at least one of them can't fully be trusted.

The novel is full of action, from Kamran's escape from the detention center in DC to finding Darius and the terrorists in the caves of Arizona's mountains to foiling the bombing at the Super Bowl.

Classroom application: A great research or debate topic would be the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center and the rights of the suspected terrorists kept there. While Kamran and his parents are not taken to Guantanamo Bay, they are taken from their homes in the dead of night by Homeland Security without being told where they are going. They are held in a detention facility in Washington DC where they are not allowed to see each other and their requests for a lawyer are denied because they haven't been charged with anything.

Another real world connection would be to examine the treatment of Muslims after September 11th, the stereotypes, and the misunderstandings about their religion. Finally, students could explore the issues surrounding PSTD for soldiers, how many of them self-medicate for their mental health issues and then are discharged. Like Dane, they receive a dishonorable or other than honorable discharge, which affects their access to benefits and only perpetuates their mental health issues.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Code of Honor for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

For more reading suggestions for students and teachers:



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