Saturday, January 14

Ishara Deen - God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems


LIKE NANCY DREW, BUT NOT...

Craving a taste of teenage life, Asiya Haque defies her parents to go for a walk (really, it was just a walk!) in the woods with Michael, her kind-of-friend/crush/the guy with the sweetest smile she’s ever seen. Her tiny transgression goes completely off track when they stumble on a dead body. Michael covers for Asiya, then goes missing himself.

Despite what the police say, Asiya is almost sure Michael is innocent. But how will she, the sheltered girl with the strictest parents ever, prove anything? With Michael gone, a rabid police officer in desperate need of some sensitivity training, and the murderer out there, how much will Asiya risk to do what she believes is right? 



Received an e-arc in exchange for an honest review from the author

I've always love dedications in books, and this one was no exception- 

For all the girls who were never told someone like them could, not even in books.

How many times have you seen yourself represented in fiction? A couple? More than that? Never? If you ask me, I'd say not enough. The times where I've read and seen someone go through what I do on a daily basis, the times where a protagonist's circumstance are so similar to mine that I may as well be leading the life I'm reading about are so far and apart that I've- subconsciously perhaps- stopped expecting it from books. And then comes a book so unexpectedly, a book that puts into words what you've always been thinking of, a book that reads like it could be your own thoughts and you're shook. This was that book for me. 

You know the kind of book where every other page you're reminded of yourself? The kind of book where you groan and say "this is so me"? Yes, this was that book for me, right from the first page. Asiya Haque is a Muslim, a Canadian with Bangladeshi roots, whose faith is constantly tested by those around her. She is a straight-A student, obedient to her parents, never breaking the rules, always patient, patient, so patient that even when she'd rather be talking back and voicing her own opinions, she'd rather stay silent. She's put in a tough spot and this is where the story takes off. 

I tried to relax, but I couldn’t and I didn’t know why.

     It’s just a walk.

     It’s just a walk.

     It’s just a walk with a guy I have a crush on alone in the woods.

     It wasn’t like I really believed Satan would appear at any second, commanding me beyond my will to do his bidding. But then I figured that wasn’t how Satan rolled.

Ishara Deen's debut follows Asiya as she tries to go about proving that her crush friend Michael is not responsible for a murder- but how can she do that when Michael himself goes missing? And how can she do this when she has the strictest parents ever and her whereabouts are constantly monitored? In this fast-paced, well-written #ownvoices novel, we see what Asiya- and any Muslim girl, really- has to go through on a daily basis. I'm lucky enough to say my parents aren't as strict as Asiya's are, but the rules we have to put up with, the people we have to appease and just how much we have to go through to just stay in the good books of our parents are all so well-portrayed in this book.

What I loved most about God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems is that it doesn't paint the situation in a bad light. Instead, it shows us, in a non-dramatic, real way, the kind of problems the very people around us and our very own community may pose when it comes to doing what we want to do, but it also shows the good side of things. We see how Asiya's mother is constantly behind her to make sure she sticks to the rules, but we are also shown how much she'd go out of her way to defend her daughter and protect her. We see the strict disciplinarian in her father, but we also see how much love he has for her and the efforts he takes to understand her. We are shown how her brother is given the kind of freedom she never would be given, but we are also shown the beautiful bond between the two siblings. 

Asiya's story is that of a Muslim girl, told by a Muslim author- but it's a story for everyone. We have the perfect older sister, the overbearing but well meaning parents, the tentative relationship between Asiya and Michael and the loyal, undestanding bff in Em. And what's more, we have regular visits to the mosque, parotas, lounggis, annoying aunties and people who have taken it upon themselves to be the religious police. What I really enjoyed was Asiya's constant inner monologue with God. Now, I'm aware that not all Muslims would do that, but I certainly do. Bargaining with God, repenting, thinking through things- Asiya does all that in the most delightful way.

So God, I could really use some help. You see, I’m not too great with this signs business. Like I’ve got this itchy, irritating feeling in my chest, but I’m not sure if You’re telling me something or it’s my dinner coming back up because my stomach is currently higher than my head. Ma’s fish curry pushing its way past my stomach sphincter and back up my esophagus would do that too, You know? So could You please, please help me out by making it really, really clear what the right thing to do is in this case?
  
God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems was a very engaging, entertaining, enlightening book with a terrific protagonist, and the only reason it receives a less than 5 star rating from me is because however much I related to the main character, I still wasn't as emotionally invested in the story as I would have liked and I felt the mystery could have been more...well, mysterious. I'm a sucker for good mysteries and therefore personally, I felt this one fell just a bit below the mark. In no way did that ruin my reading experience, but given that the blurb focuses mainly on the mystery and this does fall in that genre ultimately, I wish it had been more suspenseful. The story did, however, end in a cliffhanger and I simply cannot wait for the sequel! 

The story idea: 5/5
The realization of the story: 4/5
The characters: 5/5
The cover: 4/5
Enjoy factor: 5/5

7 comments:

  1. This sounds really good! Thanks for the review, I'm adding it to my to-read list :D

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    1. Ooh that's great, Jolien! I hope you pick it up sometime real soon <3

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  2. I'm glad you finally found a book that speaks to you on so many levels. It's sad that it took so long for it to appear in your life, but hey, at least it's a start!
    Murder mysteries in YA are often disappointing, for some reason. At least this one is not the thing that drives the whole book, but more of a starting point for the story.

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    1. P.S.: is the author a relative of yours? LOL. I suppose Deen is a rather common surname?

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    2. The murder mystery aspect didn't bother me all that much, though, because the other parts of the story more than made up for it!
      Omg no, we just share the same surname. Well, actually my surname is Rifaideen, I just use Deen because it's shorter :))

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  3. This sounds great! It's not a genre I typically read (mystery), but I'm trying to push my literary boundaries, and I love #ownvoices books (especially ones I might be able to relate to). I downloaded a copy of it.

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    1. I'm sure you'd find yourself relating to this one, Amal! The protagonist voiced some of my very thoughts and it was amazing :D The mystery doesn't dominate the proceedings, though the story is driven by it- I'm sure you'd love it!

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