Allie Abraham is the almost-16-year-old daughter of an academic father and a psychologist mom. Her dad is of Muslim heritage but not practicing; her mom was raised Catholic but converted to Islam when she married. As Allie’s father has pursued his career, the family has moved around a lot. This has brought the small family tightly together, and they enjoy a warm and loving association, with treasured family traditions.
Allie has learned along the way how to fit in successfully with the different social groups at schools she attends. She is smart, hard-working, cute, has a style of her own, but . . . she is used to making herself into whatever acceptable personality will make life go smoothly for herself and her parents. Getting older, Allie experiences scary prejudice and behavior against Muslims in the U.S. She also begins to long for more information about her cultural identity and how she fits into it. Unannounced to her father (who is very set against religion and wary of revealing his cultural background), she begins to attend study groups for Islam, begins to pray in the prescribed ritualized way, announces to school friends she is Muslim, and even wears a hijab one day. As it turns out, her boyfriend’s father is a media star who rants and raves loudly about letting Muslims into the country, etc. This eventually leads to some dramatic tensions in the story.
This is a readable but dense book which seems to cover thoroughly issues such as the fair treatment of religious minorities, the practices and rewards of adhering to a religious discipline, how to balance centuries-old edicts with modern sensibilities, etc. Readers will learn interesting things about the Muslim religion, the culture, and the difficulty of being an adherent of an “unpopular” faith in a predominantly Christian culture–all things worth thinking about.
At the end of the book Allie proclaims that she finally feels free of “the imposter syndrome,” the struggle she had maintained until that time to be all things to all people. Through loving family members and friends, she seems able to break through and begin to develop into her authentic self. Muslim issues aside, this is a theme that will resonate with many, many people. Allie’s movement toward “emancipation” is not error-free, but it is steady and promises continued success.
Cautions regarding purchase of this book by school librarans: (1) There is a very little bit of profanity; (2) Allie’s mother makes it plain she knows her daughter will eventually decide to have sex and wants to make sure she protects herself when she does; and (3) same-sex relationships are presented as normal and acceptable.
The book is 415 pages long. I got a little tired of it, but the plot was developed properly and I don’t know what the author could/should have left out.
Categories: Bullying, Civil Rights, Controversial YA Topics, Death and Grieving, Diversity, Dysfunctional Relationships, Immigrants, LGBTQIA, Muslim Culture, Navigating through High School, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Political Activism, Racism, Religion, Social Media