Amal has typical teenage worries–a crush on a boy, coping with a bitchy popular girl, missing friends from an old school–and one very big not so typical worry–contemplating wearing the hijab (head scarf, long sleeves, long pants/skirt). Amal is a Palestinian-Australian Muslim. She grew up in Australia, but her parents moved there from Palestine. Her mother wears hijab, but up until now Amal has only worn it to mosque or for holidays. Amal believes she wants to wear it full time and thinks she is ready, but is intensely worried about the reactions she’ll get from friends at school and from the public in general.
It seems like this issue should only take up a couple of chapters of a 300something page book, but in fact it really is the whole premise of the story. And yet, it doesn’t drag or become dull. There are some incidental storylines to keep things going: Amal befriends her nasty old neighbor, one of Amal’s close friends tries to deal with her family’s incredibly traditional treatment of her (they are trying to marry her off, she’s not allowed out in public), and another of her friends has a crush as well on a boy.
I found Amal’s religious devotion believable and also interesting. The information about being a modern Muslim girl was presented very naturally in the book–as was the idea that it is not the same for every Muslim. Cultural factors play a huge part in attitude and interpretation of teachings (see: Amal’s friend being married off.)
I did think Amal was very naive to believe that the boy she had a crush on didn’t actually want to date her. Their relationship progressed from flirting to deeper friendship and was clearly on track for boyfriend/girlfriend. It’s not until he goes to kiss her for the first time that she tells him, hey wait I can’t actually date anyone or kiss anyone until I’m married. Not surprisingly, he is shocked and wonders whats been going on this whole time.
A quick read for teen girls.