Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
With an engaging narrator at the helm, Abdel-Fattah's debut novel should open the eyes of many a reader. Headstrong and witty, 16-year-old Amal, an Australian-Muslim-Palestinian ("That means I was born an Aussie and whacked with some seriously confusing identity hyphens") decides during winter break from her posh private school that she's ready to wear the hijab, the Muslim head scarf, fulltime, as a testament to her faith. Amal knows she will face discrimination by classmates and misinformed people but she is committed to her decision; her parents are initially concerned, but ultimately rally behind her. Their worries, in fact, are well-founded: Amal attracts her share of stares and taunts both at school and around town, but she finds strength, not only from her convictions, but from her close-knit group of friends, who for various reasons-being Japanese, Jewish, nerdy or body-conscious-are perceived as being outside "the norm." As Amal struggles with her identity in a post-9/11 world ("Do you have any idea how it feels to be me, a Muslim, today? I mean, just turn on the television, open a newspaper.... It feels like I'm drowning in it all"), her faith-and an array of ever-ready quips-help her navigate an often-unforgiving world. Using a winning mix of humor and sensitivity, Abdel-Fattah ably demonstrates that her heroine is, at heart, a teen like any other. This debut should speak to anyone who has felt like an outsider for any reason. Ages 12-up. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
Gr 7 Up-Australian 11th-grader Amal is smart, funny, outspoken, a good student, and a loyal friend. She is also a devout Muslim who decides to wear the hijab, or head covering, full-time. The story tells of her emotional and spiritual journey as she copes with a mad crush on a boy, befriends an elderly Greek neighbor, and tries to help a friend who aspires to be a lawyer but whose well-intentioned mother is trying to force her to leave school and get married. Amal is also battling the misconceptions of non-Muslims about her religion and culture. While the novel deals with a number of serious issues, it is extremely funny and entertaining, and never preachy or forced. The details of Amal's family and social life are spot-on, and the book is wonderful at showing the diversity within Muslim communities and in explaining why so many women choose to wear the hijab. Amal is an appealing and believable character. She trades verbal jibes with another girl, she is impetuous and even arrogant at times, and she makes some serious errors of judgment. And by the end of the story, she and readers come to realize that "Putting on the hijab isn't the end of the journey. It's just the beginning of it."-Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
"*Starred Review* Like the author of this breakthrough debut novel, Amal is an Australian-born, Muslim Palestinian whacked with some seriously confusing identity hyphens. At 16, she loves shopping, watches Sex and the City, and IMs her friends about her crush on a classmate. She also wants to wear the hijab, to be strong enough to show a badge of her deeply held faith, even if she confronts insults from some at her snotty prep school, and she is refused a part-time job in the food court (she is not hygienic ). Her open-minded observant physician parents support her and so do her friends, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, secular. Her favorite teacher finds her a private space to pray. The first-person present-tense narrative is hilarious about the diversity, and sometimes heartbreaking. For her uncle who wants to assimilate, foreign is the f-word, and his overdone Aussie slang and flag-waving is a total embarrassment. On the other hand, her friend Leila nearly breaks down when her ignorant Turkish mom wants only to marry her daughter off ( Why study? ) and does not know that it is Leila's Islamic duty to seek knowledge, to gain an education. Without heavy preaching, the issues of faith and culture are part of the story, from fasting at Ramadan to refusing sex before marriage. More than the usual story of the immigrant teen's conflict with her traditional parents, the funny, touching contemporary narrative will grab teens everywhere."--"Rochman, Hazel" Copyright 2007 Booklist
Horn Book Review
(Middle School, High School) At the start of a new term, eleventh-grader Amal makes the big decision to wear the hijab, the Muslim head scarf, full-time. This first novel follows ""Australian-Muslim-Palestinian"" Amal as she debates the pros and cons of wearing the hijab, providing numerous teaching moments about Muslim culture and identity. Amal is proud to wear the symbol of her faith, yet she knows she faces ridicule from the popular set at wealthy McCleans Preparatory School. She is supported by her two best friends from her old Islamic school, as well as her new friends at McCleans, and their discussions explore different practices of Islam while dutifully dismantling stereotypes and presumptions. The girls' conversations and IMs are peppered with references to fashion, music, and pop culture lest the reader miss that Amal is a typical teenager in many ways. Amal's complex navigation of her first big crush is conveyed with a lighter hand. Adhering to her principles on no physical relationships before marriage, she flirts with Adam, not realizing she may be leading him on until he tries to kiss her. Though the lengthy analyses on everything from female body image to Palestinian food give the book more message than momentum, the girls' thoughts and dreams are authentically adolescent, providing a bridge between cultures -- as the author clearly intends. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Book Review
An "Australian-Muslin-Palestinian" teen opts to wear the hijab, the Muslim head scarf, full-time, embarking on a courageous exercise in self-understanding. Sixteen-year-old Amal attends an elite prep school in a Melbourne suburb. Poised to begin the third term of 11th grade, Amal admits, "it's hard enough being an Arab Muslim at a new school," but "shawling up is just plain psychotic." Determined to prove she's strong enough to "wear a badge of my faith," Amal faces ostracism and ridicule as she dons her hijab with both good humor and trepidation. Supported by her parents, Amal spurns racial epithets like "towel head" and discovers her friends still accept her for who she is, not what she wears. As the term progresses, Amal's friends face their own issues of self-worth while her faith is tested when she falls in love with a non-Muslim classmate. Wearing the hijab full-time shuts some doors, but opens others for Amal as she emerges a bright, articulate heroine true to herself and her faith. Abdel-Fattah's fine first novel offers a world of insight to post-9/11 readers. (Fiction. 13-18) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.