Last Updated on April 16, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1310
Layla and her friends’ table is called to take their food, but none of the teenagers rise. When Soheil announces that they are protesting the government’s violation of Muslims’ civil rights, the Director is furious. He lashes out and breaks Soheil’s nose. The Red Cross volunteers quickly create a barrier between the teens and the Director, who is held back by his own guards.
Throngs of Exclusion Guards burst in the door, pushing people to the floor and breaking cell phones. Jake pulls Ayesha and Layla out of the confusion and turns to help others.
Outside the fence, the protesters and police look on as helicopters circle the premises, creating dust storms. Amid the screams and violence, Jake sees Layla unable to breathe and pulls her into her trailer. He washes her face and gives her water, stopping himself from holding her face in his hand.
Layla is in more danger now; the Director will blame her for riling up the others. Ali and Sophia lecture her on the danger of what she has done. Layla believes they are trying to mitigate the damage by portraying her on camera as a thoughtless teenager. They turn and go to their room, giving Layla the silent treatment.
Layla does not intend to die in captivity.
All residents must now report at 6:30 a.m. for roll call. Their daily activities are precisely scheduled, and they have a 9 p.m. curfew. Saleem and Fauzia strictly enforce the roll call and urge everyone to cooperate or face consequences. A few people point out Layla to take the blame for their punishment. Fauzia and Ali intervene when Saleem threatens Layla.
Ayesha reports that the Red Cross has taken Soheil to a clinic to treat his injury. She is frightened that he will be a target if he returns. Just then, a man throws a hard clump of dirt, hitting Layla in the back.
Three girls wearing hijab wish to join the movement, and Layla is impressed by their courage. She knows it takes great strength to maintain one’s identity.
The Director interrogates Layla with Red Cross representatives present. Layla recognizes an opportunity to expose the Director’s true self to the world and tries not to be intimidated by his demeanor. He accuses her of hurting people and disturbing their peaceful community. She retorts that she was not the one who broke Soheil’s nose and that they are prisoners in an internment camp.
The Director warns her that the Red Cross cannot help her, but he can. He offers her family a reward if she becomes his informant. He wants to know who organized the protest and who leaked stories to the outside world. She denies any knowledge. He informs her that Ali and Sophia have received threatening notes, which unnerves Layla; she has no intention of her parents suffering. The Director dismisses her after warning her that it would be better that they are friends when the Red Cross leaves.
Jake introduces Layla to Specialist Fred Adams; the two have switched shifts in order to protect her. Jake becomes uncomfortable when Fred says they have an advantage because the others think Jake likes Layla. The shift switch gives Layla time to organize people for the next protest: a silent wall of solidarity next to the electrified fence. Someone suggests they also raise their right fists, a universal gesture of protest against racism and oppression.
One boy, Abdul, seems uncomfortable and expresses disbelief that girls in hijab would know anything about oppression, prompting one of the girls, Suraya, to...
(This entire section contains 1310 words.)
tell him he’s ignorant. Layla warns them about fighting each other, which is just what the Director would want.
Although they defend her to others, Layla’s parents hardly speak to her. They have heard about David’s Instagram video, and they know people blame her for the tight restrictions. Layla is saddened by the growing distance between her parents and herself, but she is also glad that they are somewhat protected. If they do not know what’s in her mind, they cannot be hurt.
Layla asks about Jake’s tattoo, and he explains that it is for his mother. They used to hike together, and one day she gave him a compass for navigation. She said a compass will only tell you a direction, and that only you can find your true north. Layla takes his hand to comfort him.
Jake has taken up Layla’s former job of leaking stories about Mobius to the press; since guards are searched when leaving the premises, he is unable to smuggle her writing out of the camp. He tells Layla that David loves her and is worried about her. When she acknowledges that she is lucky to have David, Jake responds that David is the lucky one. He reiterates his warning to be careful and says that David is not the only one who worries about her.
Surprisingly, David’s father has been trying to have Layla released before she turns eighteen and is no longer protected from the Director’s abuse.
Layla considers Jake’s story about finding one’s direction; she has chosen hers.
She tells Ayesha about Jake’s comment that those who are under eighteen are protected because they’re minors. She worries that others besides her will turn eighteen soon.
As per Layla’s plan, while the friends eat dinner, someone turns out the lights. In the chaos that ensues, the teenagers are able to make their way to the fence. Layla notices that a few older people have joined them. As they stand in unity before the protesters, Layla hears David calling to her, “I love you.”
The protesters begin to chant, and the guards shout for people to return to their trailers. Suddenly, a shot is fired into the air, and a guard screams to cut off the electricity in the fence. Layla sees that the police cannot hold back the crowd from reaching the fence, and she screams in vain for them to retreat. Jake urges Layla to return home, but before she can leave, she catches sight of Soheil. Her screams do not reach him as he hurtles himself toward the fence and is instantly electrocuted.
There is no time to mourn. Layla and the others must run back to safety. She reaches the trailer and vomits, then chokes out Soheil’s story to her mother. After they pray for Soheil, the family sits together, comforting each other.
Just then, the door bursts open, and four of the Director’s private guards demand that Layla come with them.
Sophia screams as Ali tries to hold his daughter back; one of the guards hits him so hard he falls against the floor, hitting his head and shoulder. As Layla is taken away, a crowd of people shout at the guards.
Layla is placed in a prison cell and given a bottle of water, which she clutches “like it’s a life preserver.” She must remind herself to be strong and to breathe. Eventually she falls asleep, only to be awakened by Jake. Fred gives her a banana and takes her to see the Director.
Layla knows that the Director is angry, but she is shocked when he forcefully grabs her jaw. As he squeezes harder, she refuses to give him the satisfaction of speaking, but her tears betray her pain. Just as the Director is about to punch Layla, Fred bursts through the door to announce visitors from High Command.
Fred gives Layla ice packs for her face. He tells her that Jake is with High Command but will return soon and will “go wild” when he hears what the Director did to Layla.
Concerned about her parents, and in great pain, Layla dissolves into “soul-shattering sobs.”