YA Novels with Muslim Characters

Please note: I’m speaking from the view of mainstream publishers, as there have been Islamic companies who have attempted to provide representation.

I’ve been an avid reader and lover of Young Adult novels ever since I could ever remember. I still remember my 12-year-old self borrowing the Darren Shan vampire series one by one from my school library because my parents wouldn’t buy me the entire series. I remember the day my cousin bought me all the The Hunger Games novels, and finishing them all in the space of a couple of days. I’ve been watching the increasing attention placed on diversity in literature for YA in recent year and I love that it’s happening.

In YA novels, there are few Muslim characters. I started making this list for my cousin who wanted to read more YA novels with Muslim characters in them. So that’s why I decided to post the list here. This is by no means an exhaustive list but it gives an indication of the novels that exist with Muslim characters in the YA publishing sphere. I’ll be continuously updating it. Please drop a comment below if I’ve missed one out!

Any books labelled with *** means it features a muslim character within the novel but not as the main protagonist.

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review_godsmites

Book Review: God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems

Rating: ★★★★☆

Received an e-arc in exchange for an honest review from the author

When going on a walk with her crush, Michael, Asiya accidently stumbles across a dead body. Knowing that telling the police means revealing to her strict parents that she was with him, Michael covers for her but then goes missing himself. All the evidence points towards Michael but Asiya is sure he’s innocent and is willing to risk everything to help Michael.

This review is painful to write because I literally don’t know what else to say except that I loved this. It was such a fun read. All Asiya wants is a normal life but she’s thrust into a murder mystery and has to use her wits to navigate her way through the investigation. It was such a fun and comical read. And serious at times, especially when Asiya begins to doubt Michael’s innocence. And I really enjoyed the character of Asiya: she’s a head strong lead and her faith and determination drives her to do good, even if she shouldn’t be doing much of the things she does.

Even the attempt of bringing South Asian and Muslim problems forefront was good and done so well. (Asiya and her family are Bangladeshi and anytime I see a Bangladeshi character I immediately go  (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧ ) Solving a murder is hard and Asiya struggles with it a lot, especially since she doesn’t want to disappoint her family so she has to work around her family and community. She mentions the inconsistency of her community that allows boys more freedom and their gossiping nature that spreads like wildfire. I hope in the sequel we see Asiya use that to her advantage, like asking her brother to help and do something that she would’ve been easily caught doing but not him.

God Smites is an enjoyable book. I turned every page and I immediately was like “this is so me!” I kind of related more to her younger brother: he just wants to play video games and struggles to pass Maths which is literally my entire educational experience.  I’m also in love with the book’s dedication. For all the girls who were never told someone like them could, not even in booksWith God Smites, I get to read about a Muslim girl go through daily life that’s similar to my own, where I can see myself in her actions and that’s my favourite part of this book. It’s such a real book which portrays such real characters without being stereotypical. Sure, her mother is very strict and her father too, but we also get to see them protect and try to understand Asiya. Their family dynamic was so relatable and funny. They all get frustrated and argue with each other but in the end, they do come together as a family. And that ending, guys, my jaw dropped. It ends with a big revelation and an even bigger cliffhanger. Can I have the sequel now?

I’m going to end this review with my favourite part:

He yelled a general, “Salam alaikum!” and made it halfway to the basement door before he realised something was off.

I actually had to put my Kindle down because I was laughing so much because:

  1. She’s in the middle of being interrogated and he casually walks in like this
  2. I do the same thing when I don’t know if anyone’s home 😂😂

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review_thegoodimmigrant

Book Review: The Good Immigrant

Rating: ★★★★★

Honestly, there’s little to say about The Good Immigrant that hasn’t already been said. I’m not a huge non-fiction reader, but I can say this book was so worth reading.

It’s an interesting and fascinating collection of essays, from authors who are BAME individuals and sharing their stories of their lives and what makes someone a ‘good immigrant’, each one bringing a different aspect of their own lives. They all touch on different topics: why they/or their families move to the UK, their own culture, and the situations they had to deal with. That’s what I loved about this collection, how everyone had a completely different story to tell, each compelling and interesting as the one before it. Its contributors range from people whose families immigrated here, those who were born here, and to ones who had decided to leave.

I think the only flaw I could really point out is that most of the contributors are mainly in media/entertainment which means it excludes people from other fields of work where immigrants have greatly contributed. But, overall, this is a great collection of essays which were all thought-provoking and most importantly, honest. Highly recommended.


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wrapup_jan2017

January Wrap-up + February TBR | 2017

Here is a very late (well, to me it’s late) wrap up of the books I’ve read in the month of January. A total of 11, which I’m pretty pleased with but I think the spirit of the new year kind of fueled that and I don’t think it will be as high as that for the rest of the year :’). And also a partial TBR of the books I want to read in February. The ones listed are all the Netgalley books (not including God Smites) I need to read.

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review_theinquisition

Book Review: The Inquisition

Rating: ★★★★☆

* I received an ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  This in no way affected my opinion of the book.

After spending a year in prison, 16-year-old Fletcher finally receives a trial but the outcome doesn’t appear good either way. Either he’s convicted for allegedly ordering his demon to kill Didric or they have him on treason for attacking a soldier. After a quick trial and learning a shocking secret about his past, Fletcher soon joins his old friends and enemies on a covert mission into orc territory.

I really enjoyed this one. It did take me a while to remember who was who and what had happened at the end of The Novice so it did take me a while to get into the story but once I did, it was great.

Looking back, I did prefer The Novice, plot-wise, but The Inquisition has faster action and higher stakes with a close look at the enemy Orcs. I’m quite glad the courtroom drama doesn’t drag too long in the first few chapters. It’s quite neat meaning that we learn what we have to know and then it moves on to what’s really important. I’m quite divided about this book in the sense that I enjoyed the great detail of everything as they venture on in their journey but at the same time but I also preferred the more character-driven parts where we see Fletcher interacting with his friends. This conflict for me made it feel like it as partially suffering from Second Book Syndrome just the tiniest bit. But I think I’m a bit too invested in this world and characters to care. There’s also a hint of romance that I guessed would have happened but at the same time, I was still surprised because this book never really focuses on the romance.

This fantasy world is one of my favourites –  it’s so vast and filled with so many different creatures and people. The plot itself only focuses on certain parts of it but there’s potential for the story to reach even further as this world finds itself almost on the verge of war.

The only real criticism I can really say is the sudden influx of new characters. There’s a point where there’s new people and demons alike come in, with new demons comes new demonic descriptions, so that can overwhelm some readers. But I would love to see Matharu release a handbook of some sort featuring all the demons in the series.

Overall The Inquisition is a solid sequel that builds and developed well, leaving you wanting more in the end. If you enjoyed the first book, you should definitely continue reading this series. (Also, R.I.P. me, I seriously died at that cliffhanger)


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2017 releases that I can’t wait to read

I like to call this post my future “2017 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn’t Get To”. Will I even read most of these books in 2017? Probably not. But will I make this list anyway under the pretence that I have everything under control? Obviously, yes.

1) Caraval

27883214Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

MY THOUGHTS: This is probably the book on the list which everyone will call ‘overhyped’ but whooh that plot sounds so cool and I’m super jealous of that cover.

2) History is All You Left Me

25014114When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

MY THOUGHTS: I’m not going to lie: I thought this book was already out. I’ve seen this everywhere for the past six months and I just assumed that I missed the release day when really everyone I follow just happened to have ARCs.

3) The Hate U Give

32075671Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

 

 

4) 27 Hours

Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.

Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from under his mother’s military shadow, and to unlearn his colony’s darkest secret.

During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.

MY THOUGHTS: I haven’t even read this and it’s already my top read of 2017.

5) When Dimple met Rishi

28458598The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

MY THOUGHTS: That cover is everything. This plot is everything. Everything about this is everything.

6)I Believe In A Thing Called Love


31145133Desi Lee knows how carburetors work. She learned CPR at the age of five. As a high school senior, she has never missed a day of school and has never had a B in her entire life. She’s for sure going to Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation-magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds her answer in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Rules for True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and fake car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.

MY THOUGHTS: To say that I’m excited for this is a severe understatement. 

7) Amina’s Voice

30312547Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.

Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other.

MY THOUGHTS: This is one of Salaam Read’s first books to be published and if you can hear a crying noise in the distance, that’s me, waiting by my mailbox.

8) The Gauntlet 

29346880A trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair.

When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube—they know it’s up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how.

MY THOUGHTS: I learnt a couple of weeks ago that Farah is a Bangladeshi-American and I cried. SHE’S BANGLADESHI GUYS!!!!

9) Noteworthy


31447601It’s the start of Jordan Sun’s junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. Unfortunately, she’s an Alto 2, which—in the musical theatre world—is sort of like being a vulture in the wild: She has a spot in the ecosystem, but nobody’s falling over themselves to express their appreciation. So it’s no surprise when she gets shut out of the fall musical for the third year straight.

Then the school gets a mass email: A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshiped … revered … all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

MY THOUGHTS:

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10) Allegedly.

29640815Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a church-going black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

In this gritty and haunting debut, Tiffany D. Jackson explores the grey areas in our understanding of justice, family, and truth, and acknowledges the light and darkness alive in all of us.

What’s on your TTT this week? Leave me a link or let me know in the comments!

review_ifiwasyourgirl

Book Review: If I Was Your Girl

Rating: ★★★★

“I’m not brave,” I said, smiling despite myself. “Bravery implies I had a choice. I’m just me, you know?”

Amanda is the new girl in school and she’s trying to keep a big secret. Amanda is transgender and moves to Tennessee in hopes of keeping her head down and getting through high school. Soon she makes friends and meets Grant.

If I Was Your Girl was such a charming read. I really enjoyed it. The plot, characters and hilarious sense of humour just made this a really great book. I really loved how the narrative jumps between real-time events and Amanda’s childhood. It added great suspense and was equally heart-breaking. (don’t want to spoil but my heart broke at the diary scene)

I’m not a huge romance reader, which is why I put this book off for so long, and while their romance came across generic, I found it so sweet. Maybe my cynical self needed some adorable picnic dates and cute film dates. They were so lovable and dorky together that I didn’t care it cheesy. I also may or may not had become a mushy mess on the train when I read the Halloween scenes. (Spoiler: Grant goes as Boba Fett and Amanda dresses herself as Leia. IT’S SO CUTE I DIED)

What I really enjoyed was the happy ending. In our media, TV, films and novels, there are so many characters who are LGBT+ and are constantly killed off for shock factor. I know it seems like a spoiler but I do see this book advertised like this, Amanda gets a happy ending, despite everything that happens, Amanda’s happy and alive.

Overall, I admired this book. The biggest issue I could think of was pacing in certain scenes but I definitely recommend this to anyone and add this to your TBR if you haven’t! (Also, I loved the separate author’s note Russo adds at the end: one for her cis readers and one for her trans readers.)

I should note while it’s wonderful that anyone reads my reviews at all, but I should remind you if you don’t know: this is a story about a trans girl written by a trans woman and I am a cis reader. This obviously means my perspective is limited and I will point you all towards reviews written by trans writers. (edit: i thought I bookmarked them but it appears I didn’t so once I find them I’ll link them up)


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review_writteninthestars

Book Review: Written in the Stars

Rating: ★★★★★

Written in the Stars is a common tale that goes unspoken. A tale that is a real life for thousands of women who find themselves facing it every day. Naila’s parents have always given her a choice but when it came to marriage, it was simple: they will choose her husband. Naila’s already fallen in love and when her parents find out, she is whisked away to Pakistan under the pretence that they are visiting family. But the truth is darker and Naila doesn’t have a say in the matter.

Written in the Stars was such an engaging and powerful read. From the very beginning to the very the end, everything goes high-speed for Naila and towards the end, you’re left thinking, will she make it?

Naila is a great protagonist. I loved her hopefulness, her love for Saif and her faith in believing she will make it back home. There are moments when you believe there’s no going back for her, but she fights back. The writing style is simple, but it works here. It was straight and simple to the point so we’re not distracted from every thing that happens to Naila. We, as the reader, are aware of her marriage from the very beginning, but to Naila, she’s completely clueless and the tension rose with ever clue that popped up, unknowingly to Naila. My favourite parts was descriptions of Pakistan an its culture. Its markets, food and the houses packed to the brim with visiting family.

However, it didn’t read perfectly polished, with some scenes happening too quickly and the ending could’ve definitely been slowed down a bit, considering what happens. But, nonetheless, this is a good book. It was intense, frightening and hopeful, all at the same time.

Also, the author’s note was perfect. Saeed mentions that forced marriages can happen anywhere, regardless of culture, country or religion. And I believe Saeed even wrote an article between the distinction between an arranged marriage and a forced one that many people aren’t aware of.


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review_everyheartadoorway

Book Review: Every Heart A Doorway

Rating: ★★★★☆

Every Heart A Doorway has one of the best concepts ever. We all dream we can be whisked away through a wardrobe door, fall down a hole and be transported to entirely new worlds. But Every Heart is about the kids that come back, whether they want to or not. Here come Eleanor West’s Home For Wayward Children where desperate parents send their children who they want back to ‘normal’. But Eleanor is someone who has also returned and commits her life to providing a safe place for them. Tragedy strikes the day Nancy enters the home, and with her new-found friends, they try to stop it before it gets them.

For a story so short, it tackles and includes so many topics: gender issues, what we perceive as wrong or right, mental health. There are so many lyrical and poetic lines in here, it was amazing.

“Because ‘boys will be boys’ is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said Lundy. “They’re too loud, on the whole, to be easily misplaced or overlooked; when they disappear from the home, parents send search parties to dredge them out of swamps and drag them away from frog ponds. It’s not innate. It’s learned. But it protects them from the doors, keeps them safe at home. Call it irony, if you like, but we spend so much time waiting for our boys to stray that they never have the opportunity. We notice the silence of men. We depend upon the silence of women.

McGuire knows how to write creepy.  I went into this thinking it was like Miss Peregrine’s Home, but Every Heart is much eerier and strange. But you can’t mention this book without mentioning the diversity. It makes me so happy to see authors really understanding how important it is for our fiction to be diverse. While I was excited to see such a diversity of characters, and all of them have such well-built tales and backstories, I struggled to feel for them. I think it maybe due to its length, but this concept was way too big to fit into such a small novel. I would’ve loved to have seen more worldbuilding. The High-Logic and High Nonsense confused me at first, but it interested me. There are so many concepts that are introduced but not much of it is actually explained. But I believe the third novel will continue the events in this one, so I’m definitely excited to see what happens next!

Overall, I definitely recommend Every Heart A Doorway since it’s a strange yet entertaining read. 


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ttt_2016shouldveread

2016 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn’t Get To

I just realised I haven’t done a Top Ten Tuesday since June. I think towards the end of the year, I went really downhill on my posting but I’m hoping to get my site get active this year. And TTT are such a fun and easy way to do it! And I think this topic was made for me. I’m a very slow reader, contrary to others around me who think I’m very fast because I read a lot of books, but I’m slow when it comes round to reading new releases. I’ve even dedicated the first two months of the year clearing my TBR so it’s less daunting and more manageable. But let’s get on with this week’s top ten 2016 releases I meant to read but didn’t. (In my case, it’s every book of 2016 lmao)

1) Girl Against the Universe

22297294Maguire is bad luck.

No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time the rollercoaster jumped off its tracks. Or the time the house next door caught on fire. Or that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch.

It’s safest for Maguire to hide out in her room, where she can cause less damage and avoid meeting new people who she could hurt. But then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star. Jordy is confident, talented, and lucky, and he’s convinced he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away. But it turns out staying away is harder than she thought.

MY THOUGHTS: I have literally heard nothing by goods things about this book from everyone I follow so this one has slowly been edging its way up my TBR.

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review_soundless

Book Review: Soundless

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Soundless takes place in a remote, closed off mountain village in ancient China, where all it’s members are deaf and receive food via a delivery in exchange for sending the metal that they’ve mined. Fei is a talented artist, who fears for her sister’s life as she slowly loses her sight. Until one day, Fei regains her hearing and joins her childhood friend on a mission down the mountain to find help.

I’m not going to lie, I was disappointed when I finished this book. I’ve only read two of Mead’s books, Vampire Academy and Frostbite, and I actually really liked them. A lot. If I can recall, it was brilliant albeit cheesy. But it had the action, drama and intensity and I was expecting all this to come in her new novel that is supposedly “steeped in Chinese folklore.” But nothing really jumps out as remotely Chinese about this story. Aside from the pixiu, you could change the names to Rose, Lissa and Dimitri and this could be set anywhere else.

I get this seems harsh, but I don’t have anything good to say about this book and that’s difficult for me, as someone tries to find redeeming qualities in even the worst books I’ve read.

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