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March 13, 2017
Originally published in Australia, Abdel-Fattah’s novel about a blossoming teenage romance could hardly be more timely; although set in Sydney, the book is acutely relevant to American readers. Michael’s first glimpse of Mina is from the opposing side of a protest: she is demonstrating for refugees’ rights, and he is with Aussie Values, a nationalist group founded by his father. Smitten, Michael is surprised to find that Mina is a new student in his prestigious and predominantly white high school. Their testy first exchange sets the stage for a typical opposites-attract story, except that it reveals their deep-seated differences about Mina’s presence in Australia. An Afghan refugee who arrived by boat (“jumping the queue,” according to Aussie Values) more than 10 years earlier, Mina has left her diverse neighborhood and school thanks to a scholarship. As she adjusts to her new environment, Michael struggles to align his evolving feelings with his family’s outspoken principles. Abdel-Fattah (Where the Streets Had a Name) delivers an engaging romance within a compelling exploration of the sharply opposing beliefs that tear people apart, and how those beliefs can be transformed through human relationships. Ages 12–up.
Starred review from March 1, 2017
An Afghani-Australian teen named Mina earns a scholarship to a prestigious private school and meets Michael, whose family opposes allowing Muslim refugees and immigrants into the country. Dual points of view are presented in this moving and intelligent contemporary novel set in Australia. Eleventh-grader Mina is smart and self-possessed--her mother and stepfather (her biological father was murdered in Afghanistan) have moved their business and home across Sydney in order for her to attend Victoria College. She's determined to excel there, even though being surrounded by such privilege is a culture shock for her. When she meets white Michael, the two are drawn to each other even though his close-knit, activist family espouses a political viewpoint that, though they insist it is merely pragmatic, is unquestionably Islamophobic. Tackling hard topics head-on, Abdel-Fattah explores them fully and with nuance. True-to-life dialogue and realistic teen social dynamics both deepen the tension and provide levity. While Mina and Michael's attraction seems at first unlikely, the pair's warmth wins out, and readers will be swept up in their love story and will come away with a clearer understanding of how bias permeates the lives of those targeted by it. A meditation on a timely subject that never forgets to put its characters and their stories first. (Fiction. 12-17)
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March 1, 2017
Gr 9 Up-Mina, her mother, and her stepfather, Afghani refugees in Sydney, Australia, are moving out of multicultural Auburn into a more homogenous, wealthy neighborhood to open a halal restaurant. Michael is the obedient son of the founder of Aussie Values, an anti-immigration group. The two teens meet at Mina's new school, where she is on scholarship. Michael is immediately smitten with witty, self-possessed, intelligent Mina. He falls hard and has to figure out what he believes, because if he is anti-immigration, he is anti-Mina. Mina struggles with trusting Michael, whose family is clearly no ally to hers and whose best friend is a complete jerk. Told from the protagonists' alternating perspectives, this work presents a multifaceted look at a Muslim teen. Mina and Michael's relationship is threatened by direct attacks perpetrated by Aussie Values on Mina's family's restaurant. Their love develops amid (mostly) well-meaning but flawed family and friends. Abdel-Fattah explores teen nerdiness, sexuality, cruelty, compassion, family pressure, neglect, and loyalty. She is a master at conveying themes of tolerance, working in humor, and weaving multiple emotionally complex points of view. VERDICT A timely and compassionate portrait of the devastating losses of refugees, political conflicts within a family and a nation, and the astounding capacity of young people to identify hate and yet act with empathy and love. A must-purchase for all collections.-Sara Lissa Paulson, City-As-School High School, New York City
Copyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
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