I found this a difficult book to review because it is so far outside my personal experience that it did make me question my choices. Was I saying I had really enjoyed the book to appear "politically correct" and to show that I wasn't racist or was it a genuinely well told story? In this multi-media age we are told how we should think and feel as never before and that to think otherwise is heresy. Does that mean if I didn't like this book I am inherently racist or if I really loved this book am I a "good person"? You see the dichotomy of books like this that open us up to thinking about reading of what are potentially real world situations.
Having taken a deep breath and giving myself I good talking to I decided that I enjoyed this book not because it would mean I somehow fit the best possible stereotype but because it is a genuinely good story that has been told with vivacity, humour and honesty.
Maya is just a normal teenaged girl, she has crushes, she struggles with her parent's expectations and she has ambition. We are introduced to her extended family early on in the book and although somewhat stereotyped on the outside you soon realise that no, the stereotype is there because, guess what folks, it really is true. Her interactions with her parents feels true to life, especially the lying by omission that I am sure we all indulged in. The fact she is the only Indian Muslim at her school and her family are the only ones in the small town outside of Chicago is belaboured a little bit but you get the feeling the intention of this is to show how integrated with the community they are and how their faith and skin colour just isn't an issue on either side.
The weaving in of the terrorist's tale is well done and leads you down a few blind alleys. I will not go into that here as it is a major spoiler but I was impressed by the misdirection and sleight of hand exhibited by the author. The reaction to the terrorist attack is shocking in the extreme and you can fully understand the panic of Maya's parents. Indeed Maya's own response seems overly dramatic but she is a teenaged girl and high drama is only to be expected. I really enjoyed her romantic exploits and they were portrayed realistically within the book; even though I fully expected her to end up with the Football Hero I was actually pleased when the relationship fizzled out as this is what happens to so many high school romances once College beckons.
This is a book that makes you think about preconceptions; Maya's filter for the world is her camera. We all have a filter for making life more palatable to us or us more palatable to the world but are we brave enough it to acknowledge it so blatantly? The topic of extremism is handled sensitively and reminds us that it is a minority that perpetrate such crimes and that they are not who we always expect them to be.
I RECEIVED A FREE COPY OF THIS BOOK FROM READER'S FIRST IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW.