A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape–perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.
American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.
There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.
Trigger Warnings: Suicide, Islamophobia
A huge thank you to Soho Teen and Edelweiss for a free copy of this awesome book!
I wish I hadn’t waited so long to review this book because I’m sure I won’t be able to remember everything I want to talk about.
The book follows Maya, a Muslim-American teen who wants to one day make films. She is very unapologetic about her love for her hobbies and her opinions on certain issues like sexism and prejudice. The main conflict of the bombing doesn’t happen for a good chunk of the book which I liked because we get to see what Maya’s every day life looks like and how much it changed afterwards.
The family dynamic is very realistic. Maya’s parents are first generation immigrants so there is a cultural barrier between her parents and herself. Her relationship with her mother is strained, neither one understands each other’s perspectives (or likes it). Her mom wants Maya to be the perfect Indian daughter: quiet, obedient, married young to another Muslim-Indian. Her mom doesn’t understand Maya’s goals and dreams, Maya doesn’t understand why her mom can’t leave her ideals back in India and just support Maya. I liked reading their scenes together because you understand Maya’s frustrations with her mother, and most of us have been in similar situations (if not as drastic as Maya’s) so we’re able tot sympathize with her.
Maya has a great relationship with her aunt (her mom’s sister) who she sees as the opposite of her mother. Her aunt is unmarried, lives alone and is on her way to become a famous graphic designer. Her aunt is breaking the Indian cultural norm and inspires Maya to do the same.
I have to say I was a little disappointed by the lack of care Maya gives her religion. Yes her parents are Muslim and she experiences Islamophobia but there isn’t much in the book that show us shes’s Muslim. I do understand that not everyone is religious and people have their own ways of participating in their faith. But I wanted there to be something more than just her parents tying her to Islam, especially since I went into the book expecting a Muslim main character.
Personal preferences aside, the book itself is great. Maya is a good main character, she’s passionate and driven, and does what she wants to do. And I loved both love interests, Kareem and Phil were both sweethearts. I liked the plot and how it dealt with issues of racism and Islamophobia. A book like this was long overdue and I’m glad Samira Ahmed decided to write this story.