There is a lot to tackle in Code of Honor– racism, profiling, and domestic terrorism- with twists and turns at every angle. The action will keep readers tearing through the pages and deep into the throes of disbelief, and long after Code of Honor is finished, they will be talking about the real concepts behind the overarching themes.
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?
I loved how Code of Honor grabs the reader from the beginning and never really lets go- it’s really like an action movie for teens on the page. Everything is fine for just a few pages, and then things implode when Darius is captured, and then deemed a terrorist- all seemingly within a few moments in the book. Kamran can’t get his head around it, and refuses to believe anything bad about Darius, which is completely, utterly believable. Even in the face of video evidence, he refuses to believe it.
I also loved how Code of Honor reflects and magnifies both the inherent racism and the racism by fear that we have within our country. I work with a largely minority population, and I see the effects daily of what it does to them and their parents. That racism is real, and for every incident where there’s someone of Muslim or Afghani decent or a different nationality who has perpetrated a crime that is covered on the news, they have incidents of hatred, hatred at school. A lot of them will call in sick on September 11 because it’s just not worth it to deal with the hatred; it’s better to get an unexcused sick day or even zeroes on that day, and they won’t even tell their parents because their parents made such huge sacrifices to come to this country for them to have a better life. The way that Kamran’s friends instantly turn on him when his brother is labelled hit too close to home for a lot of teens.
I really liked how Kamran felt entirely real– his reactions were entirely and completely teen, from his worries about prom, to his feelings about his brother, to his worries about shooting and fights. It was so spot-on from a teen point of view, and very few action-adventure books that are written for teen/young adults show that viewpoint. Often we get assassins heavily trained from age 13, or even from birth, to a life of the military or of crime, so it was actually really refreshing to have a main character be real, with doubts and questions.
I also liked how Grantz interspersed Kamran and Darius’ culture into their codes and stories. I am not familiar with Irani tales, so I don’t know if they’re accurate, but the interweaving of Power Rangers and Transformers in with stories that their mother would tell them seems completely in line with what brothers playing in a backyard would do.
Even with the page turning incredible-ness, there were just some things that you had to just go, really? There’s a double cross within Mickey’s team, and with all the resources and conniving Mickey has, it seems just a bit too unbelievable that he can’t know that this person is a bit unstable. And while the Super Bowl plot is entirely believable (coming from someone who had to take FEMA training when the Super Bowl was in the area), the fact that they let two suspected terrorists save the world does stretch the imagination.
There are a ton of moments and emotions to choose from: betrayal, disbelief, relief, elation, and on and on. I think the biggest for me would be the huge sadness near the beginning of the book, however:
It’s when Kamran figures out that his parents are doubting Darius- he feels that betrayal from them, and questions for an instant whether Darius is actually capable of doing what Homeland Security is accusing him of- and then he feels so horrible for doubting his brother. That just sets off the whole sequence of everything for the rest of the book- the removal of them from the house, and the internment without counsel, the “recruitment” of Kamran to help defeat the different plots, and the final conflict at the Super Bowl.
I would place Code of Honor in teen/young adult, middle school/high school collections, ages 12 and up. There isn’t anything that would preclude juvenile readers from it if they were looking for a book like this; however, in a public library juvenile collections are typically anywhere between ages 8-12, that represents a huge range in reading levels and emotional maturity. Within a public library, they can easily move over to the teen/ya section to find it or have an awesome librarian recommend it. Librarian note: there is realistic violence and hard-hitting themes within Code of Honor, including domestic terrorism, racism, betrayal, and terroristic plots.
It’s one of those good things / bad things feelings. Everything turns out yea! we saved the world! but then he’s got all of his turncoat friends wanting to be buddy-buddy, and then Mickey’s back around the corner, and should he be a part and he’s still got nightmares from everything…. Code of Honor is a complex book, and one that is a high-intensity read. It leaves one feeling for Kamran:
Yet you’re wondering if there are going to be more….