116 pages 3 hours read

Alan Gratz

Code of Honor

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2015

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Summary and Study Guide


Code of Honor is a 2015 young adult thriller by Alan Gratz, the author of the acclaimed Prisoner B-3087, among other novels. The book follows main character Kamran Smith after his brother, Army Ranger Darius Smith, is discovered cooperating with al-Qaeda. The novel deals with issues of Persian-American identity in the wake of 9/11, and the struggle of remaining loyal to the people one loves and trusts, even when the evidence is stacked up against them.

Plot Summary

The book begins at a homecoming dance, where Kamran introduces his all-American life as the homecoming king, star quarterback, and boyfriend of popular girl Julia Gary. His luck changes, however, when he discovers, after a brawl with a school bully, videos that show his brother Darius's military uniform. These videos have been released to national news outlets. Soon, Darius is under suspicion of being a terrorist, and Kamran is under suspicion, too.

More violent and graphic videos featuring Darius are subsequently released. Kamran tries to explain to Homeland Security a code that Darius may be using to communicate in the videos, which might prove his innocence. Nobody believes him, and Kamran is taken into custody in the middle of the night. He’s held in a government facility and interrogated every day for hours on end about his brother's plots to overthrow the government.

Mickey, a CIA analyst, takes Kamran under his wing, and is the only person who believes Kamran’s notion of Darius sending coded messages. The two analyze them together. A clue that reveals a plot that would put Darius in danger inspires Kamran to break out. He plots an elaborate escape, which includes firing a stolen pistol at government officials, before breaking out during the night. He finds himself in Washington, DC, where he is promptly picked up by Mickey and his team—Dane, Aaliyah, and Jimmy, all undercover spies who are working covertly to try to rescue Darius. Kamran agrees to join them as they journey to Arizona, where Kamran suspects Darius is being held.

During their journey, the crew is sent to Kendall Food Services, to try to intercept cartons of C-4 explosives meant for the Super Bowl. The team believes that Darius and the terrorists who captured him plan to blow up the stadium hosting the Super Bowl, and attempt to stop them. The team is ambushed at the warehouse, which forces them to reconcile the fact that there is a traitor in their midst. They begin to suspect Mickey, and remain wary of each other for the rest of the trip to Arizona. As they ride, Kamran picks up tips on fighting from Dane, a former Green Beret.

Once they arrive in the desert outside Phoenix, Dane takes out a number of snipers and the team enters the cave housing the terrorists. They expect to find Haydar Ansari, a terrorist notorious among government officials for his manipulative plots, but instead they are confronted by a woman called the Black Widow, whom Kamran knows but can't quite place. Darius is also inside, and despite some initially suspicious actions he turns out to be a hero after all. Kamran and Darius try to break free only to be captured by the Black Widow, knocked out, and sent into the Super Bowl with heavy explosives tied to them.

Inside the stadium, Darius and Kamran manage to come to in time, and escape from the portable stage where the Black Widow has placed them. They can't disengage the bombs, but they do alert Mickey and some security guards, who are at first suspicious but ultimately trust them. The stadium is evacuated before the bomb goes off, and Darius and Kamran fight the Black Widow, also known as Emily Reed, who is an ESPN news anchor. The Black Widow is captured, and millions of lives are saved.

The novel ends with Kamran reuniting with his family, while he grapples with the emotional repercussions of the previous months’ events. He and Darius find a bond in their shared heritage, faith, and strength, as well as through their shared passion for serving their country. In the end, Kamran makes a vow to continue on through difficulty, to forgive, and to be the bigger man, even when he is treated differently because of his race and ethnicity. 

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