Boy meets girl. Girl changes everything.
Michael likes to hang out with his friends and play with the latest graphic design software. His parents drag him to rallies held by their anti-immigrant group, which rails against the tide of refugees flooding the country. And it all makes sense to Michael.
Until Mina, a beautiful girl from the other side of the protest lines, shows up at his school, and turns out to be funny, smart—and a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan. Suddenly, his parents’ politics seem much more complicated.
Mina has had a long and dangerous journey fleeing her besieged home in Afghanistan, and now faces a frigid reception at her new prep school, where she is on scholarship. As tensions rise, lines are drawn. Michael has to decide where he stands. Mina has to protect herself and her family. Both have to choose what they want their world to look like
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Fighting, Strong language, Drugs, Underage drinking
Booklist starred (March 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 13))
Grades 9-12. Acclaimed author and Islamophobia expert Abdel-Fattah pens another timely story. As a child, Mina came to Australia by boat, a Muslim refugee escaping turmoil in her native Afghanistan. Now, as a teen, she enters an elite preparatory school on the other side of Sydney, on scholarship. Michael, a natural-born Australian citizen, hasn’t spent too much time second-guessing his parents’ involvement in a local anti-immigrant group, until he sees Mina, and his unquestioning trust in his parents begins to fray. Told in chapters alternating between Mina and Michael, this mature, nuanced novel explores the forces that feed anti-immigrant sentiment and the hypocrisy that festers in hateful beliefs. There are no easy answers here, and, indeed, several uncomfortable moments as Michael resists his parents’ deeply held beliefs. Though a novel like this could easily become didactic, Abdel-Fattah expertly sidesteps heavy-handed lessons, instead deeply rooting the story in the experiences of these two teenagers, rendering their story, encompassing romance, a testament to friendship, and a powerful call to action, in utterly real and sympathetic terms. Though the setting is Australia, readers will find direct parallels to current situations in the U.S., and given the fallout of the 2016 election, this book could not be more necessary. Deserving of wide readership and discussion.
Kirkus Reviews starred (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)
About the Author
Randa Abdel-Fattah is an award-winning author, former attorney, and an expert on Islamaphobia in Australia. She is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Does My Head Look Big In This? and Ten Things I Hate About Me, as well as the middle-grade novel Where the Streets Had a Name. Ms. Abdel-Fattah lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and their children.
Her website is www.randaabdelfattah.com
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