Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)
Amal is sixteen when she decides to wear the hijab full time. But she soon faces trouble at her exclusive prep school. Suddenly, everyone seems to have an opinion on her. And as she begins navigating her last years of secondary school, she must find herself without losing her identity.
I think regarding the representation of a hijabi teen, it’s actually quite good. Amal reminds me of my cousin who is actually her age right now. The high school drama, the catty people, and the confusion that comes with growing up are portrayed quite realistically. When she comes to school wearing the hijab, everyone’s confused, and because they’re all children, it’s natural to ask questions. I only say this because a lot of reviews tend to call this part unrealistic. Amal is, at first, outcasted momentarily because they didn’t understand, and she then actually helps and informs her peers. Sure, there’s a lot of scenes that come across unrealistic, but her experiences are entirely valid, and loads of reviews haven’t really grasped that, once you consider the time it’s set in and location. Quite a lot of what Amal experiences were quite familiar to me.
Amal is very well-spoken, confident, and incredibly charming. I was rather proud at this young Muslim girl, who also wears the hijab, and was confident in her decision to do so. I don’t think I even had a shred of her self-confidence at this age.
I listened to the audiobook, so I don’t know what it’s like reading the book, but I felt like I had some issue differentiating some characters. She has like four friends, and along with huge dialogue dumps, it felt all the same. I’m not sure if that’s just the narrator’s voice. There’s also a reliance on a lot of typical stereotypes, and there’s a lot of phrases that are used that just didn’t sit with me. Also, sorry to Amal, I couldn’t see she liked Adam so much. But you do you, I guess. I actually preferred Amal and Adam as a friend. There was also a good potential for an arc with one of Amal’s friends who is often bullied for her weight. I was holding onto something more empowering, but I don’t think the book really hit the mark there. Amal and Leila’s polar opposite arcs can come across as being typical but do partially agree about having something more in the middle. Also, mean girl who is mean and nothing else was a bit boring.
Considering when this book first came out, I have to give Randa Abdel-Fattah a massive amount of respect. Don’t expect this book to teach you everything about Islam, it’s merely one girl’s story, one where’s she learning. It does come across preachy at some moments, but in the end, Amal realises her mistakes and begins to show that she’s learning and growing, which is what I really liked.
Overall, it’s a somewhat entertaining book, and very hilarious at many moments. Regarding recommending, I’m not too sure. If I had read this ten years ago, the list of Muslims in YA wouldn’t have reached half a page, then sure, but reading it in 2019 is a much different experience. But it’s a straightforward book to listen to. A light-hearted journey of identity and discovering one’s self.