Thursday, January 22, 2009

Randa Abdel-Fattah's Ten Things I Hate About Me is even better than her first book, Does My Head Look Big in This? It is a welcome addition to multicultural fiction. I have found very few other books that include Muslim teens that aren't about war or terrorism.

Jamilah, who is Lebanese-Australian, doesn't want peers at school to know her ethnic background, fearing that they will call her a "wog". So, she goes by Jamie, bleaches her hair, and wears blue contacts. She has a crush on an Anglo-Australian boy and hopes to be able to go with him to the 10th grade formal. Things work against her. Her family has it's share of dysfunction-- her mother passed away years ago, her sister is a social activist, and her brother spoiled and unhelpful. Jamilah's father is strict.

Through her youth group, Jamilah is in a Lebanese music band. She enjoys her culture, her family, and all that her ethnic identification entails-- she just doesn't want to share it with others. She gets involved with a boy in a chat room, and shares these details with him. Of course, he is understanding and encourages her to tell her peers; of course, he turns out to be someone who goes to her school.

Although a little predictable, this was a solid novel. While ethnic identity was certainly central to the story, there were other teen problems involved, making it accessible to all students. My only reservations about it are that it is set in Australia (although those details are not as strong as in the first book, it was weird reading about autumn descending in April!), and the plot is a bit convoluted and long. This objection is slight, and I voice it only because many of my Muslim readers are still struggling with English, and it would be nice if they could see themselves in a book that was easier for them to read. Very worthwhile addition to a middle or high school collection.

Did not care for Wild Magic by Cat Weatherill. It follows the children whom the Pied Piper of Hamelin steals into a horrible and violent world from which they must escape. There are some other books about Hamelin, but this is maninly fantasy, and since it wasn't a pleasant world, I didn't want to spend time there.


  1. I loved her first book. Will look for this one. thansk for the tip. sorry you didn't enjoy Paper Towns. One of the few we don't agree on :)

  2. I heard about this and I do think it sounds good. I like that they are dealing with different cultures and NOT bringing terrorism into it.


  3. I really want to read Does My Head Look Big In This? It looks great, and I love the cover of the new book!