A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tanaz Bhathena's novel A Girl Like That is the story of 16-year-old Zarin Wadia, a very unconventional and rebellious girl who lives in one of the world's most culturally conservative countries, Saudi Arabia. Already an outsider because she's a half-Hindu non-Muslim from India, Zarin scandalizes her classmates by smoking cigarettes and riding alone in cars with boys. As readers learn in the very first chapter, her life ends suddenly and tragically. The story then unfolds in flashbacks (told in the alternating chapters by Zarin, her friend Porus, and two classmates), and readers discover that Zarin was far more than the rule-breaking troublemaker she'd been branded. There are some graphic episodes of violence as characters are beaten, a man is shot, and teen boys drug girls and then assault them (although that's not described). There's no strong language beyond "pissing" and "crappy." This novel should prompt serious discussions about violence against women and girls and their right be to treated equally no matter where they live.
What's the story?
A GIRL LIKE THAT begins at the end of the story, with the death of 16-year-old Zarin and her 18-year-old friend Porus on the Al-Harameen Expressway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. No one, it seems, is surprised that Zarin -- known as a reckless and rebellious girl -- had her life end in a tragic car accident. It almost seemed fated. She was born illegitimately in Mumbai, India, the daughter of a bar girl and a hit man for the local mob. After her mother's death, she was adopted by her aunt and uncle, who move the family to Saudi Arabia. By 16, Zarin is skipping school and breaking the rules against smoking cigarettes and riding in cars with boys. Not caring about the rules in Saudi Arabia can be a dangerous thing, as the religious police are always on the lookout for teens behaving or dressing in ways not thought appropriate. Zarin dates a boy whose disapproving sister bullies her and gossips about her on social media, and she develops a crush on a popular boy who turns out to be a sexual predator. Only when Porus, a boy she knew from her childhood in Mumbai, reappears in her life do things seem to turn around for Zarin ... if only for a brief time.
Is it any good?
This compelling and thought-provoking coming-of-age novel tackles serious issues of religious intolerance, women's rights, and class and racial prejudice. Even though A Girl Like That is set in a country whose rules and traditions will be light-years away from the lives of most teens, the characters still have struggles and challenges they can relate to: mean girls at school, gossip, jealousy, dating, and sex.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the strict cultural and religious rules that characters in A Girl Like That are expected to follow. Would you rebel like Zarin or would you follow the rules?
Are there ways in which girls in your school or community are treated as second-class citizens? What's acceptable behavior for boys but not for girls?
What do you have in common with the characters in A Girl Like That? What experiences do teens share no matter where they live?
- Author: Tanaz Bhathena
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Book Characters, Brothers and Sisters, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Publication date: February 27, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 384
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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