The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali

336p. Scholastic. Jan. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338227017. POP
RedReviewStarGr 9 Up–Rukhsana Ali lives her life on the border of two worlds: one as the daughter of conservative Muslim parents, the other as a 17-year-old teen just trying to make it through the end of her senior year and get into California Tech. Everything seems to be going according to plan until her mother catches her kissing her girlfriend Ariana. Incapable of understanding, her parents whisk her away to Bangladesh where she is caught up in a whirlwind of family dynamics, arranged marriages, and traditions. Through the kind words and understanding of her cousin and grandmother, as well as the gift of her grandmother's diary, Rukhsana searches for the courage to fight for her right to love whomever without also losing her family's approval. This coming-of-age novel is filled with memorable characters, heartfelt moments, and a realistic portrayal of the difficulty of living in two worlds. At times, the writing feels a bit stilted, but the heart of this story will resonate strongly with teens. They will cheer, cry, and rage along with Rukhsana as she balances the ignorance of her friends and family on her quest for understanding and acceptance.
VERDICT With an up-close depiction of the intersection of the LGBTQIA+ community with Bengali culture, this hard-hitting and hopeful story is a must-purchase for any YA collection.

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