Book Review: Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell

Book Review - Sahara Special by Esmé Raji Codell | BookPage

Title: Sahara Special

Author: Esme Raji Codell

Genre: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 192

Rating: B

Recommended?: Yes



   Sahara Special is going to be somewhat hard for me to review because while I enjoyed it, I hated it’s companion Vive La Paris so much that it made me like this book less just by association. I know that’s not fair, but it’s the way I feel so make sure to hang tight and read my reviews for both books. Sahara Special is a easy middle-grade read and while it was somewhat cliched at times, I really enjoyed the main character and the way she grows throughout the story.


Sahara lives with a hard-working single mother in a rough neighborhood, and she expresses her grief over her father’s absence by writing a number of undelivered notes to him. At school Sahara is considered slow because she’s so cripplingly shy it’s hard for her to communicate and follow directions, so she’s tutored by a special education teacher even though the school’s resources are obviously extremely limited.


I had some problems with the premise right off the bat because we’re supposed to believe Sahara has learning disabilities that make things like reading and writing extra hard, but it seems more like she’s being tossed aside by the school system because her social anxiety is so debilitating. Anyway, Sahara ends up getting an inspirational teacher named Miss Pointy who’s iconoclastic and eccentric and refuses to fit in an easily defined box.


Her character was uninteresting to me because she was such a cliché, and some of her teaching methods seemed risky and just plain bad. However, she’s the first teacher who realizes how smart Sahara really is and doesn’t underestimate her potential as a blossoming writer. My favorite thing about this book was Sahara’s narrative voice, it’s offbeat and touching and struck me as being fairly believable.


I liked reading about the way this character saw the world and I liked watching her grow more confident in her abilities. Her character arc was strong even though the side characters weren’t that interesting and the overall plot was just okay. I read this book over the course of one rainy day and it was a good read for when you’re in the mood for something that deals with some serious issues but isn’t too heavy overall. It also contains a positive message about kids who are sometimes overlooked by the system and I think Sahara is a character a lot of middle graders will see themselves in.



One thought on “Book Review: Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s