Thursday, October 27, 2011


Does My Head Look Big in This?

by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Amal is a pretty average girl living in Australia, though she is pretty new at her snooty prep school, and it's a bit strange after being at a school that was rooted in the Muslim community for years. Despite wanting to blend in at McLean, she decides over the holidays to start wearing the hijab as a step farther into living her faith as a fuller part of her life. This is not met without resistance, let's just say...

Her parents, to begin with, are concerned about the opposition they fear she will encounter, and worry that it may hold her back because of how she will be perceived by others. Their worries aren't unfounded, and she does indeed encounter some nasty moments along the way. Her principal is not on board, to begin with, though her parents convince her to allow the addition to the school uniform.

Her own biggest worries come with her return to school and the dog-eat-dog social world of high school. For one thing, she is already a target of mean girl Tia and her friends. For another, she has a major crush on school cutie Adam. She has some rock-solid friends, but they do have some issues of their own that they are wrestling with, making Amal's struggles to fit in as an identifiably Muslim girl in a very white school only one of the issues that this book covers.

Amal is smart and sassy, and determined not to be defined or limited by people's perceptions. She sets out to inform the people who make clueless comments about the differences and similarities between Islam and other major religions, and to point out stereotypes and assumptions where they rear their ugly heads. She wins some people over this way - including Adam, who suddenly presents a new problem, when she realizes that what part of her wants, another part does not, for she is level-headed enough to remember that her religious beliefs about intimacy are more important to her than what her heart is telling her she wants with him.

In the end, the book sets out to expose and correct a lot of ignorant beliefs and assumptions, and does a fine job of it. The characters are likeable, and have the reader with them the whole way. And best of all, the author manages to make several good points, and make them strongly, without sacrificing any of the fun in this moving book about growing up Muslim in Australia to her message.

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