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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Amal must face several incidences of racial and religious prejudice and ignorance. Several mothers and girls worry about their weight and go on diets and one considers bulimia. Simone's mother suggests she start a crash diet so a boy doesn't lose interest in her. Amal and her friends get on boys' cases and insist they respect girls for their minds, "not their bra sizes." One 16-year-old girl's mother is "more interested in her getting a marriage license than a high school diploma"; her brother is verbally abusive to her. Amal and her friends skip school and serve detention as a result. Leila runs away from home when she can't handle her mother trying to marry her off anymore; Amal criticizes Leila's mother to her face.
Violence & Scariness
In class, Amal's nemesis Tia brings up an article about Muslim girls being circumcised in Nigeria and asks Amal, "So are you, you know, whole down there?" Amal pushes Tia down when Tia insults her at a party. Leila runs away from home and stays at a women's shelter with women who had been raped, molested, or "beaten to a pulp by their boyfriends."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some boys at school talk about porno movies they watched, loudly enough so girls can hear. Amal can't date boys and says, "I can still care and share with a guy without having to get physical with him." Regarding a kiss, she says she wants the "guy I spend the rest of my life with [to be] the first person I share something so intimate and exciting with."
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"Bitch" and its slang variant "bi-yotch," "pissed off," "crap."
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Products & Purchases
Teen magazines, TV and music references.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens drink at a party. Adam admits he smoked pot. Simone starts smoking as an appetite suppressant. After he caught her sneaking a cigarette, Amal's dad makes her smoke half a pack -- she doesn't want to smoke after that. Some residents at a women's shelter are described as "druggies clinging to their babies and desperate to shoot up."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the Muslim main character, Amal, who lives in Australia, faces religious and racial prejudice, including kids on the playground who tell the "darkies" to go home. She gets frustrated trying to explain that every Muslim is not a terrorist. The book addresses Islamic religious practices and customs, including misconceptions, and is very positive about the symbolism of the hijab that Amal decides to wear to school, emphasizing how empowered she feels wearing "this cloth [that] binds us in some kind of universal sisterhood." Amal doesn't drink or date boys, though other teens in the book drink and smoke.
Is It Any Good?
Abdel-Fattah, who describes herself as "an Australian-born-Muslim-Palestinian-Egyptian-chocoholic," gives voice to girls underrepresented in literature and the popular media. Readers will learn more about Islam's religious practices and beliefs, but to the extent that some dialog exchanges seem awkwardly set up in a question-and-answer format. Amal's behavior is full of contradictions as she learns that wearing the hijab is symbolic; She eventually realizes she must also change what's inside to truly reflect her religious values.
Western feminists may struggle with Amal's assertion that wearing the hijab is "liberation" from body-image issues. Readers of different faiths will admire her determination to be true to her beliefs and identify with her strong friendship bonds. Overall, it gives teens of every faith and background a great chance to see another perspective and discuss prejudice and identity.
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Our Editors Recommend
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