Yes, another ARC! Don't need to wait long for this to be in our library either- its release date is January 16th! Come see me if you can't wait that long.
Identity is and always will be a HUGE topic of interest for teen readers, heck even some of us much older than that can still relate. It's written in a million different ways, but my favorite YA trend right now is diversity. For the record, it pains me to say that diversity is a trend, but in all honesty, the YA world was sorely lacking good writing and stories in this area. Thanks to writers like Mitali Perkins, Erika L. Sanchez, and Sandhya Menon to name a few, this is changing. This quote from Ahmed’s blog post pretty much sums it up, “One day a brown-skinned kid with a funny name will walk into a bookstore, find my book on a shelf, and see a glimpse of themselves and know they are beautiful and wanted. One day a teenager who looks nothing like me will go to a library and pick up this book and find a brown girl, a Muslim girl, with feelings that could be their feelings in a world that they share.” This- this is why we read, why authors write, and why it matters.
Maya Aziz is an American-born Muslim Indian, living in suburbia Chicago along with her parents who achieved the American Dream by becoming dentists, having a beautiful house full of garden equipment, and a dutiful Indian daughter. Well, she tries anyway. She’s a few months away from college, presumably headed to the University of Chicago to study pre-med or pre-law, her parents' choices. Little do they know, she also applied to NYU to study film, something she knows they would never approve of and only has weeks until the deadline to accept. Her passion lies behind the camera, but her parents view it as a passing hobby. To make things more complicated, she’s now going on a date with an Indian boy who scores high on the parent approval scale but low on her heartstrings. Plus, she’s not exactly ready for marriage, but her parents would like her to “keep her options open.” Her heart lies with Phil (quarterback, Homecoming King, and most definitely not Indian), a boy she’s known for her whole life but just recently got her heart pumping. His dimples don’t hurt either, and she’s pretty sure his perfect girlfriend, Lisa wouldn’t like it. But when she spends a magical week with him over Spring Break, it looks like he might be into her too. When the spell of Spring Break is over, they are both back to school. Just when it's looking up for Maya, a terrorist attack in nearby Springfield leaves them all shaken. Especially so when reports of the bomber’s name surface: Aziz, just like her. She selfishly prayed it wouldn’t be a Muslim. When she’s pulled out of school because of a threat made at her parent’s work, she’s terrified. And a run-in with a boy Bryan, who has been acting stranger and stranger around her leaves her devastated. No way her parents will ever let her leave Chicago now, and her dreams of being on her own are dashed until she comes to a strong realization. Is this her life or her parents? This is a struggle that ANY teenager could be working through; how to make your life your own without hurting the ones who care the most?
The supporting cast in Maya’s life are equally drawn out characters- her enigmatic best friend, Violet, her parents, Kaleem, Phil, and her amazing aunt, Hina. Is this a perfect representation of a Muslim American, Indian American or just a straight up teenager? I don’t know, but if it gives me even just a glimpse, gets me asking questions, and empathy for something I’m not experiencing, I’m good with that.