Plot Summary: Normal, sixteen-year-old Amal is an Australian-born Muslim Palestinian. All on her own, she makes the decision to start wearing the hijab (head-covering) full-time. Her parents, teachers, friends, and people on the street all have a reaction – some good, some not so good. But she stands by her decision to embrace her faith and all that it is, even if it makes her different from everyone else.
In this day and age, with so much ‘Islamic Terrorism’ all over the news, a story like this is very refreshing. None of the girls in Amal’s story are made to wear the hijab. The two girls who do, Amal and Leila, do so of their own choosing because they’re strong in their Muslim faith. I think that’s a fabulous message to send in this day and age.
At times, Amal seemed a bit too introspective and wise for her age, which made the prose seem more message-y than story, but it was never heavy-handed. And this is still a story I recommend.
As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.
I like how Amal comes to her decision about wearing the hijab, and how she sees it as believing in yourself so completely that you can withstand the constant questions and taunts. Her example is Leila, who is always ready with a quip or comeback whenever someone makes fun of her hijab.
I would have liked to see a bit more, though. Throughout the entire novel, we never find out what the hijab means to Amal. We learn that it’s part of the Muslim religion, and that it makes her feel closer to God, but we never learn why.
When an avid Christian wears a cross around her neck, she does so for a reason. The cross is more than just the symbol of Christianity. It’s a reminder of what Jesus went through when he was crucified, how he was tortured, and all the pain and suffering he brought on himself so that the world could have eternal salvation. Wearing a symbol like that around your neck will probably elicit a more personal response than “it’s the symbol of Christianity.”
For Muslims, it’s traditional for women to cover their heads (at least). But so many practicing Muslims aren’t necessarily following this, so there must be a reason motivating the ones who do. What motivates Amal to put on the hijab full-time? What about it gives her enough inner strength to deal with the taunts that she knows are coming? How does wearing it make her feel closer to God? We never find out these things, and I think this is a major short-coming in the story.
Other than that, this is a well-rounded story about Muslim culture, the different things that women face both within their families and outside of them. And I was glad to see that there were plenty of respectable Muslim boys in this story, with only one jerk. Leila’s brother isn’t the way he is because he’s Muslim, it’s because of bad parenting. I’ve seen plenty of non-Muslim boys turn out that way because the parents didn’t know how to check their son.
Overall, this is a good story that’s worth reading. Especially now.