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.
tw: racism and Islamophobia
When this book was released earlier this year I saw a lot of buzz about it on Twitter. Most of the buzz seemed positive and so I put it on my TBR for the future. Fast forward to just a few days ago I saw that it was available to borrow on cloudLibrary, so I immediately downloaded it. And I am happy I did because it was a cute romance while also tackling important topics. I knew nothing going into this book other than it was a romance and that it tackled topics that centered around racism and Islamophobia.
Our main character, Maya, is pretty adorable and sweet. She makes it easy to root for her and I could really emphasize with her. I put myself in her shoes and I had a lot of compassion and admiration for her and her family. I love her friendship with Kaleem and how that friendship formed. The romantic love interest, Phil, was cute. I didn't feel like I knew him much and most of their relationship was fluff, which I am not a huge fan of but I did think some of their moments were really cute. Hida, her aunt, needed to be more in this book because she was amazing. I loved that she always had Maya's back and she was so supportive. Violet, Maya's best friend, is another character I would have loved to see Maya interact with more. I loved their friendship and it almost made up for the unnecessary girl-on-girl hate that happens in this book.
The plot is mostly a romance story with a chunk of it tackling the Islamophobia that not only does Maya and her family have to deal with but what many practicing Muslims have to deal with in America. I thought it was poignant and thought provoking. This is an #ownvoices novel, and from what Samira Ahmed says in her author's note, she's writing from experiences. And I think you can feel that. I loved the conversation Maya had with her family and I also really appreciated Violet being there for her friend. She listens to Maya and backs her up in any situation she can. I really would have loved more moments with them. The romance was not insta-lovey to me, which I enjoyed. It felt natural between the characters and like I said earlier I thought some aspects of the romance was really sweet I just wish the romance took a backseat to the more serious and important topics. The ending also felt a bit rushed but I am not sure if that was just my experience. I would have liked to see more resolution between Maya and her family. But instead the romance seems to be the focus.
The writing is really well done. I think Samira Ahmed has such a great writing style. I felt a lot of emotions while reading this story. I laughed, cried, felt terror for Maya and her family, heartbreak for their family and all Muslim people, and I even awwed at some of the cute romance moments. I read this book in one sitting and it was so addicting I could not put it down. It's fairly short so it's really easy to fly through if you need a quick read. The imagery is beautiful. From the colorful wedding in the beginning of the story to all the delicious descriptions of the Indian food her family eats. I loved Ahmed's writing and I'd easily pick up another book written by her.
Because I am neither Muslim or Indian I checked Goodreads for more #ownvoices reviews. I will link a couple really well thought out reviews that helped me see the story in a different perspective I wouldn't have gotten on my own. One of the biggest complaints I am seeing is that although Maya is Muslim, her religion is rarely talked about in her personal moments. She never feels conflict because she may be doing something that isn't permitted in her religion. Her parents talk about the Quran briefly and talk about going to mosque but Maya's relationship with religion doesn't seem to exist, despite saying she's Muslim. Although originally that never crossed my mind, it is true that Maya never brings up anything about her religion. Her worry is more about her parent's reactions than anything else. Once again, I'll link a couple reviews below that are way more eloquent and knowledgeable about this subject.
Overall, I do think it's an important story when it comes to the topics of Islamophobia and I did get caught up in the story. This is by far not a perfect book but I think if you're in the mood for a fluffy contemporary that also tackles more serious issues then this may be one to pick up. However, I am not sure if I can recommend because of the representation. I would say see how you feel after checking out the other reviews and see if you're still interested.
Goodreads Review #1 (Fuzalia)
Goodreads Review #2 (Ilsa)