FICTION

All-American Muslim Girl

Farrar. Nov. 2019. 432p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780374309527.
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Gr 7 Up–High school sophomore Allie Abraham often feels like an imposter. Her father is a Circassian Muslim and her mother is a white American who converted to Islam when they married. Red-haired, fair-skinned Allie is used to being told that she doesn’t “look Muslim,” and her non-practicing father, afraid of potential harassment, encourages her to keep her identity to herself. But Allie increasingly worries that she’s betraying her fellow Muslims by hiding who she is, especially after moving to conservative Georgia. Her new classmates openly denigrate Islam in front of her, leaving Allie feeling like “a receptacle for unguarded Just Between Us White People ignorance,” while at her new Qu’ran study group, she struggles with feeling “not Muslim enough.” But when Allie falls for charming, vulnerable soccer player Wells and learns that his father is the host of a cable news show that spews Islamophobic and anti-immigrant vitriol, Allie feels increasingly driven to take a stand. This book may bill itself as a romance, but the true heart of the novel is Allie’s experience falling in love with the meaning and beauty of Islam. She grapples honestly with the hard questions involved in belonging to a faith community: What if she’s cherry-picking her beliefs? What if others don’t see her as a “good” Muslim? Is she still allowed to question or criticize aspects of a faith that she’s new to practicing? #Ownvoices author Courtney incorporates a diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints among Allie’s Muslim friends and family, creating a vibrant cast of characters who compellingly portray the individual nuances of religious experience. The result is a layered and thoughtful exploration of spiritual awakening that never condescends to teen readers, exploring feminism, prayer, and religious ritual, family bonds across cultures and generations, white privilege, LGBTQ inclusion, and grief in authentic and heartfelt ways.
VERDICT Religion is rarely handled with such wisdom and depth in YA, or discussed so lovingly. A rich and memorable exploration of faith and family that is a first purchase for all collections.

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