Review: Does My Head Look Big In This?

Review: Does My Head Look Big In This?

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.


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Review: Proud

Review: Proud

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

*I received an advance e-copy from the publisher via NetGalley. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

Proud is an upcoming anthology of stories and poetry by LGBTQ+ YA authors, each piece reflecting the theme of Pride. Proud is such a fun anthology. It was a pure joy to read some of these pieces.

Some stories are utterly hilarious with Green’s Penguins were his own coming out to his parents is interrupted by penguins. Somewhere deeply saddening which follow the narrator as they navigate grief. All the chosen pieces are equally powerful and personal.

Each piece could easily be expanded by their authors if they wanted to. However, my fantasy-biased self obviously loved Cynthia So’s The Phoenix’s Fault the most. The short F/F story where a Chinese lantern maker has to choose between what her heart desires and what is expected of her. It reminded me a lot of Girls of Paper and Fire. Almost Certain comes close which follows a music loving teen who struggles to come out to her family while navigating her impending adulthood. I like reading books set in Brighton, where I’m from.

A broad and heart-warming collection of stories poems about identity and pride. Each piece was refreshing and different. I really love how each writer had interpreted the theme in their own unique way, and the range that is in this book is rather brilliant and fun to read. The accompanying art does not go unnoticed, and they work so well with their matching piece.


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Review: Furthermore

Review: Furthermore

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

In Ferenwood, colour is everything, but Alice Queensmeadows is devoid of it all. And that makes her different, outcasted, even in her own family. Three years after her father’s disappearance, the only person who believed in her, Alice joins a journey into the perils of Furthermore to find him.

Alice hides in her colourful clothes and bangles. And with her upcoming Surrender, the ceremony in which the younger generation of Ferenwood are given a role based on their magical abilities. Alice’s Surrender goes wrong which leads her to join Oliver through the world of Furthermore.

Alice has no choice but to team up with a past friend, Oliver, who is given the job to find her father. And he needs her help. Oliver takes her to Furthermore, a rule changing world, where one mistake will have you lost forever. Oliver is a gifted and strict while Alex is reckless and free-spirited. They begin at odds, but their friendship is forged quite quickly as they face fast-paced adversity. The way they bounce off each other was rather exciting. Their friendship was adorable, and I really enjoyed their development.

This is a fantastic Middle-grade read! I wish something like this existed when I was ten and discovering fantasy. While I fumbled with the world-building at first, the visuals are rather captivating. This book deserves its own graphic novel. The current cover is enough to justify it. It’s very adventurous, with its twisted logic, and Alice’s inner journey of self-love and friendship is fantastic.

Like I said, the world building was a bit confusing, to begin with, it makes more sense in the end, but I would’ve appreciated more clarity in the beginning. But the setting is so unique and thrilling. The eccentricity of all it all was somewhat entertaining. Mixed with its oddity of background characters, there is a lot to love in this book. I’m slightly disappointed in myself that kept putting this book off because I was not a massive fan of Tahereh’s Shatter Me series. I had learnt that quite a lot of other people shared this sentiment which I can now say, give Furthermore a shot, even if you didn’t like Shatter Me.

Overall, Furthermore is impressive. A story of loss and recovery, one of Tahereh’s more unique novels which show Alice and Oliver negotiate the harsh landscape of Furthermore and discover more about themselves. It’s fun, vibrant and imaginative! A definitely recommended read, especially for younger readers.


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Year of the Asian Reading Challenge – Sign Up Post! #YARC2019

Year of the Asian Reading Challenge – Sign Up Post! #YARC2019

Some pretty cool people (more specifically Lily, Shealea, Vicky and CW) have come together to host a reading challenge to celebrate Asian literature. The aim of this challenge is to read as many books written by Asian authors.

In order for a book to count, it must be started and finished within 2019. I really enjoy how laid back this challenge is and for someone like me, whose time available to read/blog fluctuates very easily, it’s often really difficult to participate in reading challenges. I’ve already planned to read more books by Asian authors but I thought it would be cool to join this challenge and document the books I do find! There’s no set number of books to read, just levels to reach which depend on how many books you end up reading!

I really like how all the levels are based on different animals in Asia. I initially got brave and thought I will be able to hit the Bengali tiger level, which is reading more than 50 books, but then I had to take into account university assignments and life, in general, so I’m aiming for the Malayan tapir level, which is to read around 31-40 books.

Green and blue award badge with a Malaya Tapir in the center, and with three gold stars above the award.
My journal spread for #YARC2019!

I’ll be updating my main progress on Twitter! You can follow me @zaheerahkhalik if you’re interested! If you’re interested in joining too, here’s one of the official sign-up posts.

Review: All The Lonely People

Review: All The Lonely People

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2.5/5)

*I received a copy via the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

When Kat becomes the target of an alt-right smear campaign, she has no choice but to erase her entire online presence. Suddenly, Kat is fading, and only The Lonely People know what to do. Wesley realises that people are forgetting Kat and he has to help her, even if he was partially responsible for it. 

I think what was best about this book was the portrayal of the toxic parts of the internet. These people who spew negative, hateful things into the world have solid fan bases, often young kids. Kat is one of the newest victims of a right-wing YouTuber who enables his fanbase to act violently, to hack into her website, her safe space, and completely violate her privacy.
Kat’s entire arc was the story for me. She’s created this online side of herself where she’s free to speak about anything she wants. She discusses fandom positivity and the beauty of the internet. And then it’s gone, and she had to work with Safa, a fellow faded person, to discover what to do next. Her chapters were more interesting to read. 

Welsey is a part of the boys who look up to these YouTubers, act on their behalf on these so-called man-hating feminists who want to get rid of them. He’s very much aware that what he’s doing is terrible, and what was irritating was how he never really owns up to what he’s done. He often blames his surroundings, his upbringing which caused him to find friendship in an alt-right fanbase. Kat seems to be the only person with sense and often calls him out, not outright because no one can interact with a faded person. The ending suggests Wesley works towards becoming a better person. But, personally, I found it difficult to forgive. 

The outright dismissal of online friendships was a downfall as well. Kat essentially fades because once her site is shut down, she has nothing, no other connection to people, therefore begins to fade. It comes across as seeing online relationships as less authentic and not real. And it’s quite dangerous in this book because it does show how real the internet can be, how anyone with a large enough following can have people do their terrible bidding. It’s not as nuanced as the book believes it is. 

All The Lonely People certainly is unique. The notion of fade to represent feeling invisible while discussing online culture in our current digital age is fascinating. It’s a shame I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to. 


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Review: Opposite of Always

Review: Opposite of Always

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

*I received a copy via the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

Jack meets Kate. They bond over their love for cereals and films. Jack falls in love, and it should be happily ever after. That is until Kate dies, and Jack returns to moments just before he meets Kate, again. Here, Jack faces multiple choices as he’s continuously thrown back to the past when Kate dies. He aims to stop Kate from dying, but that doesn’t come without consequences. And the choices he makes turns deadly elsewhere, and he has to figure out what he’s willing to let go to save everyone he loves.

Opposite of Always took a while to grow on me. I knew it was going to become a bit repetitive, considering the plot, but Reynold’s debut was a sweet coming-of-age story with a fun time travelling twist.

After meeting Kate at a party, Jack embarks on an adorable romance which is cut short and restarts itself when Kate dies. He sees this as a second chance, another chance to save Kate, but every time he changes something to help Kate, some even more drastic happens in the result of it.  Each return to the past has devastating impacts if Jack’s not careful. And because of this, the plot builds very slowly, but I found that Opposite of Always was more charming than I had expected.

The dialogue is witty and fun, especially with Jack and his peers. His relationship with his family was dynamic and nuanced. Jack is very loveable, and a well-rounded character. His voice is genuine and real. As well as Kate, something new is revealed about her with every loop. The plot mainly revolves around Jack’s choices and the consequences to said choices, and it was interesting to see how drastic the decisions ended up and how they differed from previous times based on small choices that seem insignificant.

Overall, an exciting novel about choices and living. Opposite of Always is charming, witty and fun. Contemporary isn’t really up my alley, but I definitely recommend.


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