What happens: Amina is new to middle school and is busy wading her way through the problems that plague this stage in life: making new friends, working on group projects, dealing with budding romantic relationships, juggling family dynamics, and figuring out where she fits in her family, school, and larger community.
Amina hoped that the only worry she’d have in middle school would be getting the guts to sing a solo at her school concert. But things haven’t gone according to plan. Her best friend is making friends with a girl who used to make fun of them, her brother is acting weird (he’s a teenager), and her uncle is coming to visit from Pakistan. As Amina forges her way ahead, she has to deal with issues of culture, faith, and prejudice.
The good: Everything in this book is so genuine. Not all middle graders in middle grade books feel quite right but Amina does. She’s sweet but she can be petty. She wants to do the right thing but she makes mistakes. Every character in this book is imagined complexly, from Amina to her conservative uncle from Pakistan. I also liked that the book struck a wonderful balance between making it clear that we’re all human and have a lot in common without veering into assimilation territory.
In the end, it’s a bit difficult to say exactly why I loved this book so much. For me, the tell tale sign that I love something is that I keep thinking about it days after I’ve put it down. This is one of those books. It’s timely, important, poignient, sweet, diverse, and heartfelt. Do not sleep on this one.
The not so good: It felt like event at the mosque came a little too late and felt rushed. I don’t believe that this book is getting a sequel (though I would love to see a YA title from Amina’s brother’s point of view) and it felt like the end of the book functioned more as a lead up to a second book than as a real ending.
Rating: 4.75/5 stars.