Rating: unrated | 336 pages | Scholastic Press | Contemporary | Release Date: 1/29/2019
Rukhsana Ali lives two very different lives. With her friends and brother, she is a happily out and dating her girlfriend Arianna. But when she is among her traditional Muslim Bangladeshi community–which includes her marriage-minded mother–her sexual identity is a closely held secret. When Rukhsana is caught kissing her girlfriend, she finds herself fighting for her happiness and possibly her freedom.
Sabina Khan’s debut is a layered story that takes a close look at how family and identity can sometimes be at odds, but how there can also be a happy medium if you fight for it. Even though Rukhsana doesn’t understand all her family’s beliefs, she still has a lot of love for her culture and traditions that she does not want to lose because she is in love with a girl.
But I will say, I felt like this book had some severe tone shifts. The book starts off like any other YA contemporary about a teen struggling to balance two lives. In the beginning, it’s pretty light and then there is a lot of tension in the build-up as Rukhsana lives in constant fear of being caught with her girlfriend. After she is outed she travels with her parents to Bangladesh where things get very serious and harrowing, the book takes on an urgent tone. All the fears and anxiety that Rukhsana’ had early on in the book come to life. She is given a dramatic ultimatum that leaves her looking for an escape.
All this pain and betrayal sort of comes to a head and vanishes when (slight spoiler) a character is Fridged, a trope where a character’s death is used to further or push forward the protagonist’s story. It’s not just any Fridge—this is a Bury Your GaysFridge that segues the book almost immediately back into a lighter tone. Like the death of this character instantly causes Ruhksana’s parents to accept her and the book takes on this humorous tone as her parents learn to navigate LGBTQIA spaces. It’s startling really. I feel like Khan wanted this book to have a positive ending which I appreciated–but it sort of jumped out of nowhere.
I mean there is a point where they lock Ruhksana in a room, take her passport and drug her but then it’s like —LOL, Mom is trying to set me up with a Muslim girl again. Also, her family spends a ton of money at one point and it’s like…shouldn’t that be an issue?
With (all) that said I did enjoy Khan’s debut and I’m really curious to see what she does next.
Check out the audiobook review here!
So, like I have on more thing to say related to tone. I think this book is hard to make a cover for. I mean I really like the cover and the color choices for this book- but it has a fierce, modern, resistance-y-The Hate U Give inspired cover that doesn’t quite hit the dark tones in this book. Like I know illustrated covers are all the rage but I don’t know if it works for everything.