*We received this book in exchange for an honest review*
Allie Abraham doesn’t like confrontation. But when she’s sitting on a plane and someone complains to a flight attendant that her dad was speaking Arabic on the phone, she stands up for him. When the man complaining sees that Allie and her father are related, everything is fine. That’s because Allie is a reddish-blonde girl with fair skin and light eyes. She also happens to be Muslim.
Allie is Circassian-American, an ethnic group originating near the Caucuses. Many Circassian were displaced after the Russo-Circassian War and largely settled in the Levant region of the Middle East. Allie’s mother is of European descent.
When Allie visits her family over the holidays, she feels out of place. All her cousins speak Arabic and Circassian, but her dad wouldn’t teach her either language. Her dad is secular and doesn’t follow religious traditions like the rest of her family. The problem: Allie feels she is too Muslim for her friends at home in Georgia and not Muslim enough for her extended family.
As Allie sees more discrimination of Muslims, she decides she wants to learn about the faith and start practicing it. She starts going to MSA at her school and later joining a Qur’an study group for girls. At the same time, she starts dating her crush Wells Henderson. He’s great and accepts her desire to learn more about her faith. However, she knows his dad would not be as understanding if he found out about her religion. Jack Henderson has a local news show where he spouts anti-immigration and racist rhetoric. At the same time, she’s lying to her dad about becoming a practicing Muslim. If all her secrets come out, everything could explode.
Courtney did an excellent job of taking her own experiences and using them as an opportunity to spread a message of tolerance. Like her MC, Courtney is a light-skinned blonde-haired Circassian Muslim. She gives her readers the chance to learn about a fairly unknown ethnic group and their culture and religion.
Allie was a relatable MC. As a high-school student, she struggles to fit in, especially since she has moved around a lot. Courtney highlights that Allie doesn’t feel “American enough” around her original school friends and doesn’t feel “Muslim enough” around her MSA and Qu’ran study group friends. It takes her a while to realize that she can be both a normal American teenager who dates and goes out with friends and be a practicing Muslim. Not everyone will agree with her, but she later becomes confident in her own beliefs.
One of the best parts of this book was how it explored the diversity of beliefs in Islam. When Allie spends time with her friends in the study group, they debate things like interpretation of the Qu’ran, the hijab and whether dating is prohibited in the religion. These girls are able to civilly debate their differences.
Also, the love interest, Wells, was adorable. Allie showed her own prejudice when she blamed Wells for his father’s divisive beliefs. She has to learn about tolerance as well when Wells convinces her that he and his dad are very different people. Wells is sweet, understanding and patient. Plus, he’s always there for Allie when she needs him!
The only thing we wish Courtney would have done is explain some of the Arabic words more. It should have been an opportunity to teach people who know little about Islam. We have both studied international relations and world religions, so we were familiar with most of the terms. But, a lot of readers will not be. If you read this and don’t know the terms, please look them up!
Overall, this is an important book for the current social and political climate in the United States. Allie’s story will stick with you and encourage you to try to understand people better. Plus, she will inspire you to be yourself and peruse what makes you happy. This book will be released on November 12, 2019!