Barakah Beats

Scholastic. Oct. 2021. 288p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338702064.
Gr 4-8–When Nimra memorizes the Qur’an ahead of schedule, her parents decide to send her to public school as a seventh grader, an entire year earlier than planned. At least Nimra will have her longtime friend Jenna to show her the ropes—right? But Nimra’s new classmates have all kinds of assumptions about her faith, and Jenna isn’t defending her. So when Barakah Beats, the popular Muslim boyband at school, wants her to sing with them, Nimra agrees, even though performing goes against her beliefs. But as lies build, Nimra is torn between friends, family, and faith, until she’s no longer sure who she is. From the very beginning, this is an excellently constructed story. Nimra’s dilemmas and challenges will be understood by every reader, regardless of faith or background. Nimra spends the book feeling deeply conflicted about music and its role in her faith and life, but the book’s ultimate strength is in demonstrating how, just like there is no one right way to be a teenager, there is no one right way to practice faith. Nimra’s decision at the story’s end will likely surprise many, but it is one that feels absolutely true to the character. And when she does find her voice, readers will feel the chills right along with her.
VERDICT Every elementary and middle school library will benefit from this touching story about a preteen struggling to reconcile faith, friends, and family against the backdrop of an American middle school.

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