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 who’s “suitable” to her mother. 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 her entire life who’s suddenly falling into her orbit at school.
But unbeknownst to Maya, there is a danger looming beyond her control. When a terrorist attack occurs in another Midwestern city, the prime suspect happens to share her last name. In an instant, Maya’s community, consumed by fear and hatred, becomes unrecognizable, and her life changes forever.
Buy it – Amazon
I’M TRYING to make my reviews shorter!
Everyone seemed to love this, and I assumed that I would too. I pushed it off for a while, but the other day I forced myself to finish it.
I’m not sure how I feel about this book. In a way, it feels like there is a part one, and a part two.
Part 1 : A sweet (semi love triangle) YA romance. Only different from others because the MC is Indian.
Part 2 : A serious look at islamphobia that the MC faces in her own home.
The distinction between these two sections was so obvious, that I’m surprised that there wasn’t a title page signaling the change! I love romance novels, but I didn’t think this would be that going in. This book is a romance novel, first and foremost. There are no racial or discriminatory actions mentioned until the book is halfway finished. I thought this book was going to be about a teen girl dealing with the impact of islamophobia after a terrorist attack. Instead, I got a book that focused on a triangle for 50% of the story. If I actually liked Maya or any of those guys she dated, maybe I would have a different review. But alas…
I loved the second half of the book. This half is what I actually believed what the book was about! There is a terrorist attack, and the response from one of her classmates was aggressive and eventually physically abusive. Her parents medical practice is targeted, and they receive support from the entire community! I’m not 100% sure if that would actually happen in real life (I’m skeptical), but it felt deeply personal and relatable.
Here’s the issue…
After thinking for a while, I finally understood why the author would start the story with a long (LONG!) romantic subplot. Maybe to emphasize that Maya considered herself (or wanted to believe) a normal teen!
Normal, normal, normal. Her family is pretty affluent. They live in the suburbs, and are the only Indian family in their city. She’s not as connected to her heritage and religion it seems, and not very interested in becoming. I wasn’t going to comment on this because I’m not Indian, or Muslim, but at times Mayas beliefs seemed iffy. Which I will say is normal with teens.
Example : On a date with this guy Kareem, she’s like AMAZED that he drinks alcohol. Because it is forbidden in Islam?
But then…after judging Kareem…she kisses him, and later lies to her parents and sneaks around with another guy, and I’m left wondering if that’s okay in Islam.
The only instance of hate that Maya mentions before the terrorist attack (unless I missed something) is kids making fun of the name of barfi when she was a kid. No instances of racism. Nothing. There are two guys into her, one Indian, and one white. Both are perfect! Literally. Perfect. Phil, the love interest, may be one of the most unbiased white guys in the world. (Personally, I can’t imagine a white guy who is not surrounded by many people of color not asking dumb questions.)
Since this book was promoted as one that focuses on racism, I assumed that….that’s what the book would be about! I thought we’d get a real view of what it feels like to be brown in America. Especially since she lives in an all-white neighborhood, I thought we’d read little micro or macroaggressions or she’d get bullied. Something. When the romance was first introduced, I thought we’d get a wind of the white guy’s (Phil) previous prejudice. Which would have been understandable, again, because he is a white guy in an all-white neighborhood. But everything is perfect. (Minus THE FACT that he obviously has a girlfriend and Maya doesn’t care because she deserves him more than his girlfriend). I say this, because I am black, and I grew up in black & brown spaces. Going to college was the first time I was ever in a large white filled space. And every single day of college, I felt like I did not belong, or like an #other. Nothing necessarily dramatic happened during my four years of college to spur that feeling, just…good old history. That’s why it wasn’t necessarily believable to me that Maya felt so content and normal in her school setting.
NBPOC definitely have a different experience from black people though.
This was not what the book was about! In a review, someone mentioned that this book would probably not pass the Bechdel test. The Bechdel Test “asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man.” I agree that this book BARELY passes that test. So much of this book was Maya worrying about her love triangle! Does she choose the Indian guy her parents love? Or the white boy who already has a girlfriend? When she talked to her best friend? They discussed what they should do about these guys. When she talked to her mother? It was about marriage.
Then the terrorist attack happened…and it was breezed over. And all she truly cared about during that situation was her boyfriend and whether or not she could go to NYU.
AND here’s what messed with me : After 260 pages of her WANTING AND NEEDING this guy Phil…the epilogue comes and she’s not with him. Instead, she’s going on a date with another guy from college. She’s going on this date with a guy from college, but also holding out for Phil.
I didn’t like Maya. She was disrespectful. Her parents weren’t even that bad! From a teen’s perspective, they were probably #horrible. But from mine? They weren’t even that strict. She basically got to do whatever she wanted to do! They let up on EVERYTHING! At the end when her parents expressed GENUINE concern (that probably would have faded in the next few months, and eventually morphed into support) about their daughter leaving the state after she was physically assaulted, instead of listening and understanding…she takes off and basically says “I’m going to do me, and y’all can do you.” And her aunt accepts it!
I genuinely believe that if she would have waited awhile, and eased her parents into accepting her college choice, they would have let her go! Their fear was understandable, and would take time to get over.
But she went against their wishes, and ~paved~ her own way.
I do love that Maya acknowledged that there was no way she’d be able to just GO to college without some kind of help. A lot of teens in YA do that, and I’m always left thinking “Is college free????”
Three stars! Fell below the expectations I had for the story. I loved the diversity, and not a topic that I had read a lot within YA.