- Language: English
- Genre: YA Contemporary
- Pages: 222 pages
- Format: Paperback
- Author: Sheba Karim
- Publishing Date: April,2018
- Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
- ISBN-10: 1526603330
- ISBN-13: 978-1526603333
You know it’s a good book when you click with the teenage characters right away, even though you are not a teenager yourself. Shabnam is a first generation Pakistani-American girl who is about to finish her senior year and start college. Over the summer she hooks up with a popular (and racist) guy then tells a huge lie about a tragedy that happened to her family during India-Pakistan partition and then falls in love with another guy. Things get more complicated, when her best friend Farah starts wearing hijab.
As you can tell from the synopsis, Shabnam Qureshi is definitely not an ideal character. She is shallow to her core, mean to her friend and a big fat liar. So the question is why did I like her? It is exactly because of all these reasons. She is a teenager who behaves like a teenager.
There is a reason I avoid reading YA Contemporary books. Most of the times, the protagonists are so calm, balanced and reasonable that they behave less like teenagers and more like saints. As if most of them are nominated for Nobel Peace prize. But not Shabnam, throughout the story she makes many silly mistakes. She is embarrassed to be seen with her great-uncle just because he wears shalwar-kameez and has a long beard. She feels uncomfortable when her best friend Farah starts wearing hijab so she distance herself from her. Even though she is awkward and apprehensive, she is a drama queen alright. And that’s what makes this story so interesting.
Now let’s talk about Farah. All hail to the queen of sass.🙌🙌🙌
“I’m too Muslim for the non-Muslims, but not Muslim enough for the Muslims”.
To say that she is feisty is an understatement. She is a hijabi teenage girl in America who prays everyday, fasts during Ramzan and doesn’t drink or date. At the same time she also swears a lot, changes her hair color frequently, listens to punk music and wears combat boots. To top it all, she also wants to become a doctor. She lives her life on her own terms and doesn’t care about double standard of society. What I loved about her character is that she is unintentionally inspirational. I would definitely read a book completely dedicated to her.
Ashish asked, “I don’t understand why the Muslims don’t tell the terrorists to stop?”
For Farah, this was some kind of breaking point, the end of nice.
She clapped her hand over her mouth. “Oh. My. God. You are so right! Hold on—” She took out her phone and pretended to dial. “Hello, Terrorists? Hi! Can you please stop blowing stuff up, it’s becoming a real drag. You will stop? No more beheadings, no more suicide bombs? Awesome, thanks! What? Can I stop US hegemony? Sure, no problem, I’ll make sure it’s over by tomorrow. All right, later! Holy shit, Ashish, thanks to you I just saved the world.”
The best part of this book is the under-current that flows throughout the story. Karim has effortlessly used sarcasm to tackle serious issues like racism, Islamophobia, stereotyping and blatant discrimination. It is easy to say that Shabnam is a shallow character as she is embarrassed to be seen with her great-uncle or hijab wearing best-friend. But considering the current state of America, I can’t blame this teenage girl for not wanting extra attention because of her religion. Especially when she doesn’t even consider herself Muslim.
Author also talks about dilemma of first generation Pakistani-Americans who can’t seem to fit anywhere. Her message is loud and clear- religion is a personal thing, stop judging people on the basis of their color, clothes, hobbies or romantic relationships.
Major portion of the story is dedicated to Shabnam’s love life. After a point her relationship with Jamie seems bit repetitive and dreary. Rather than dragging it too long, I wish more page time was devoted to Farah’s story. I would have loved to get to know her better.
To sum up, this book was completely different from what I expected it to be. I thought it’s another cute, romantic YA contemporary. But this 220 pages long book talks about many important things- friendship, relationship with parents and relatives, coming of age, diversity among Muslims, Urdu poetry and off-course teenage drama😁.
My Rating- 4/5
Thank you Bloomsbury India for sending me this book for review.