By Randa Abdel-Fattah
Classification: YA fiction
Genre: Realistic fiction
Age Level: 12+
Subjects: High school, cultural identity, personal beliefs, family, religion, self-discovery
Reader’s Annotation: Australian-Palestinian teenager Amal decides to wear the hijab, or Muslim head scarf, full-time, a formidable challenge at her private school in a Melbourne suburb.
Summary: Sixteen-year-old Amal is intelligent, sarcastic, focused and loyal, and she needs to be all that and more when she decides to wear the hijab as a symbol of her commitment to her faith. With the support of her truest friends, Amal copes with the narrow-mindedness of classmates, the stress of preparing for exams, and the complexity of her relationship with crush-worthy Adam. Then Amal’s own convictions are tested when her best friend runs away from home and Amal must confront her own prejudices and ignorance.
Notes: Amal’s wit, insight and self-awareness make her a role model for all time. This novel offers an engaging glimpse into a world seemingly different from—yet surprisingly similar to—that of most middle-class families.
Classification: YA Literature
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Subjects: Prejudice, cultural identity, high school, self-discovery
“At school I’m Aussie-blonde Jamie — one of the crowd. At home I’m Muslim Jamilah — driven mad by my Stone Age dad. I should win an Oscar for my acting skills. But I can’t keep it up for much longer.” ~ from Ten Things I Hate About Me
Summary: Jamilah Towfeek is afraid to be different, especially as she watches the popular crowd at her school put down her classmates with racist or other mean comments. To blend in, she calls herself Jamie, wears blue contacts, bleaches her hair blonde, and keeps her Lebanese-Muslim identity a secret. In denying herself and refusing to trust anyone, Jamie finds herself without any true friends—a lonely existence for any high school girl. When popular, handsome and bullying Peter begins to notice her, Jamilah finds herself even more confused. She longs to be like Timothy, who stands up to Peter and craves no one’s approval. Slowly, Jamilah realizes that she can hardly expect others to like her if she doesn’t like herself. But as she’s torn between a longing to fit in and need to be herself, how will she find the courage to open up and trust the very people who want to support her?
Notes: In this second novel from Abdel-Fattah, Jamilah is a much different kind of heroine than Amal of Does My Head Look Big in This? While Amal is a strong young woman with maturity and presence of mind beyond her years, Jamilah is an average adolescent, neither immature nor mature for her age. Her struggle to like herself is sincere and accessible. A worthwhile read.