SHREWSBURY – George Jreije and his young fictional protagonist, Shad Hadid, are making their way through life using different avenues.
Hadid, a 12-year-old Lebanese-American, is not good at academics, but he is very good at baking. It’s his avenue into the half-forgotten, mystical world of alchemy.
Jreije’s first book, “Shad Hadid and the Alchemists of Alexandria,” was published last October by Harper Collins. In the book, Hadid discovers he is descended from a long line of alchemists, an ancient science where matter can be transformed. He is invited to the academy in Alexandria, where he discovers no one seems to know about alchemy. He also discovers an evil force lurking in the shadows.
Using his skills as a baker, Hadid begins a journey of discovery into his culture.
“Alchemy has deep roots in Arab culture,” said Jreije, who was born and raised in Worcester. “Shad’s a horrible student, but he’s able to mix ingredients effectively. At Alexandria Academy, he’s trying to resurrect alchemy. He’s able to stand out.”
Hadid’s initial adventures have drawn “very positive feedback” from trade reviews, said Jreije.
“They found it to be refreshing” that the protagonist is Arab, he added. “There are not a lot of Arab protagonists.”
The book is available at Amazon and local bookstores.
From college to author
Jreije discovered writing while a senior at Clark University, where he was majoring in political science and business.
“I was at the tail end of college, and I started reading,” he said.
Aside from academic papers, Jreije had no prior experience in writing. He picked up skills through reading, including storytelling. He also used “Story Genius,” a novel by Lisa Cron on how to use “brain science” to write a novel.
Jreije picked up an agent about five years ago, and he has written five books.
“I learned significantly from book to book,” he said. “I sought feedback. I exchanged works with other authors … I found that being an author can be a lonely experience.”
Despite that, Jreije said he’s having fun writing children’s literature.
“The benefit is that I can write with the same level of depth as adult [literature] but without the foul language,” he said.
The second “Hadid” book is due out this October.
For parents seeking recommendations on reading materials for their children, Jreije said, “Reading [books] outside your culture breeds empathy. I’m so intrigued by other cultures.”
A special book
Jreije’s next book will be about Tarik, a middle school student diagnosed with alopecia.
He has firsthand knowledge about the disease; he was diagnosed at age 12, and “it grew to be very serious,” he said.
Jreije lost all his hair, including his eyebrows.
“It turned out to be a wonderful experience,” he said. “I learned that everything is impermanent. Alopecia is a cosmetic disease.”
“Tarik’s Bazaar Adventure” will be published in the winter of 2025.