An oddity: whatever gives you pause.
A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.
An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.
But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.
When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.
Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.
Then her path crosses with Adam’s.
Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.
Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.
Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.
Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…
Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.
Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.
So like, I was just so intensely invested in this from the start that my notes were vulgarly enthusiastic bahaha.
I LOVED just how self-assured and passionate Zayneb was from the very start. She was not afraid to be who she was and was not apologetic for it either. She was a Muslim young woman who has a beautiful faith she’s inherited and shared with her family, and someone dealing with being Muslim in a country where that can be viewed as something negative. On top of it all, she’s dealing with the heartache and grief of losing her grandmother. (These parts nearly had me in tears) After being caught doing well, nothing really, by an Islamophobic teacher, she is suspended. Zayneb decides maybe it’s time to hide that passion and the anger that can come with it to try and be the ‘nice Muslim girl’ that so many want her to be, and tries it out as she goest to visit her aunt.
On the other hand, we have Adam. He and his family found their Muslim faith after the loss of Adam’s mother. He’s home for the holidays. Well, that’s the reason he gives his Dad and little sister but the truth runs deeper than that. Adam’s been diagnosed with the same disease that took his Mom, M.S. (multiple sclerosis), and decides he doesn’t want to spend his time trying to finish his school, he wants to focus on his art while he can.
The two meet and it is pure serendipity and the best things come from them meeting, and the most heart wrenching things happen along the way.
The writing style from S.K. Ali was SO addictive that I had a really hard time putting this down.
They were so real and relatable and I CANNOT IMAGINE how good it felt to have an #OwnVoices author and having people on the cover represent Teens/YA/NA that just don’t get that sort of rep on or in the popular books. We also have M.S. rep in a book so I really just found this such an amazing and diverse read.
I myself am not Muslim but I am someone who deeply admires the beauty that comes from being deeply faithful. I also appreciated that we had a character who was truly angry at her circumstances in life, who wasn’t afraid to show that anger at all the crap that happens to her.
Adam is the quieter one, he hasn’t gotten angry and he doesn’t know that he has the capability to express that anger. He tries so hard to make himself small enough not to worry his father after the loss of his mother and like Zayneb’s, his deep faith is such a beautiful part of the book.
I loved watching the two characters truly get to know each other and the love that grew from the telling of this story, in their faith, for each other, for their family, and friends too.
PERFECTION. Thanks so much to TheTsundokuChronicles for the reading rec (yet again, you know me too well!). Here’s her post on why you should read this book.