Rana Joon and the One and Only Now

S. & S. Audio. Jul. 2023. 906p. $19.99. ISBN 9781797165080.
Gr 9 Up–High school senior Rana is struggling. Her best friend Louie died almost a year ago. She’s sleeping with his not-identical twin brother for misguided comfort, although she’s gay. She can’t tell her (homophobic) mother who worries about Rana’s marriageability, or her absent father who only visits the family once a year from Iran. Her “whitewashed” younger brother has “turned into [her] worst nightmare.” She’s even abandoned basketball—because she won’t do anything she loves with Louie dead. What she can do is “liberate Louie...release his words” by entering an annual rap battle. Despite her fear of performing, Rana will embody the poet Louie was—by embracing the poet she is. Arab American actor Zamamiri is undoubtedly facile with accents, tones, genders necessary for the many diverse backgrounds of the characters populating Iranian American Etaat’s debut novel.
VERDICT Zamamiri’s dynamic performance parallels Rana’s aspirational goals as she takes center stage.

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