Publishing Date: February 27, 2018
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr)
Young Adult Contemporary
The Premise from the Publisher: "Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She's also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school. You don't want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that" (FSG).
My overall thoughts and review: When I first read the premise for this book, I was instantly intrigued because 1) it had a mystery component to it because immediately, Zarin, the protagonist ends up dead in a car crash, and 2) I love that the setting was Saudi Arabia and I wanted to learn more about the culture. This book did not disappoint. It was incredibly timely, beautifully written, and it hurt in the best possible way. It can be a real eye-opener for some readers, but also I feel like it reaffirms a lot as well. Especially with things that have been going on in the media recently with sexual allegations, it deconstructs the "boys will be boys" narrative. It's an incredibly sad turning point in our culture where things like consent still need to be addressed. But, I'm grateful for books like this because Bhathena highlights and reaffirms the problematic societal norms. Bhathena doesn't shy away from taboo topics. Regardless of cultural background, a lot of what is covered topic wise is relatable. Bhathena touches on gender issues, body image, sexuality, rape culture, cultural norms, and family dynamics. The story is told in a really interesting way because immediately the reader learns that Zarin passes away, and the story is told backwards in chronological order leading up to the events of Zarin and Porus' death. The story is told from various perspectives which I really enjoyed, even if some of them were difficult to read (Farhan's perspectives often made my stomach turn). None of the characters are perfect, and I really liked that even though you empathize with Zarin and Porus, you can see that they are incredibly flawed as well. There's an emphasis on assumptions and generalizations, and how rumors work. Even though, we learn that Zarin is so much more than 'a girl like that'.. when her death came, I cried so much. I really loved her as a character despite some of her questionable choices. Overall, I really loved this book. I always find it difficult to write a long review for books I really love because I don't want to say too much that would spoil what happens. Even though you know the end, there are lot of things that ended up surprising me along the way. If you pick up any book this year, please let it be this one. It's so well-written and I think any reader would enjoy it. It's definitely worth the heartache you'll feel afterwards, and Zarin's story will definitely linger with you a long while after you finish reading it.
My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮✮ (5/5 stars)
Available for purchase at:
Chapters/Indigo, Kobo Books, Amazon, and Book Depository (Free Worldwide Shipping)
Author Question and Answer
Q: You wrote various perspectives for this book: Zarin, Mishal, Porus, and Farhan. Which perspective was your favorite to write and why?
Zarin was my favorite, without question. She was very different from me in personality, but she shared my religious and cultural background; she was funny and sarcastic. I was writing a short story collection at the time and Zarin’s story was the first I ever wrote. When the collection didn’t sell five years later, Zarin’s story is the one I went back to and to my surprise found that her voice still came to me just as easily as it did the first time.
Don't forget to swing by the other stops on the blog tour and check out more content from Tanaz and my fellow Canadian book bloggers! Many thanks to Tanaz for stopping by and the lovely folks at Raincoast Books for organizing this awesome blog tour!
Disclaimer: An advanced reader's copy of the book was provided by Raincoast Books for participation in the book tour. All opinions of the book are my own.