19 February, 2018

#BookReview :: Sadia by Colleen Nelson

Three female Muslim teenagers must decide how far they are willing to go to defend their beliefs when faced with the pressures of life.

Thirteen-year-old Sadia is Muslim and passionate about one thing: basketball. When her teacher announces tryouts for this year’s co-ed team, she jumps at the opportunity. Her talent speaks for itself. Her head scarf, on the other hand, is a problem. Surrounded by her classmates and a new friend, Syrian refugee Amira, Sadia learns about standing up for herself and fighting for what is right.

Written from Sadia’s point of view, the book examines how three female Muslim teenagers experience life. Sadia wants to maintain her Muslim identity and refuses to remove her head covering at a basketball tournament; Amira is a Syrian refugee, reeling from the trauma she experienced when she fled her home; and Nazreen is ready to eschew her Muslim heritage to fit in with the popular crowd at school.

This is the story of Sadia, Nazreen and Amira. Sadia and Amira are Syrian Muslims, while Nazreen is an Egyptian Muslim who have all found their way to Canada. Sadia and Nazreen have been in Canada for a while and they have had the time to adjust to the ways of life there. Amira, on the other hand, is new to Canada and has a lot of hurdles to cross before she can settle in. The language barrier is just one example. The book explores the barriers and conflicts that these girls face.

Frankly, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the book. On one hand, the blurb of the book indicated that it would be informative about the cultural differences. On the other hand, I wasn’t really sure if the Canadian Author would be able to do justice to the protagonist’s characters. I actually checked out the author’s Goodreads profile and website to see if she had any related experience. Only thing I could connect is that she has been a teacher for about a decade and so may have had interactions with Muslim girls as her students.

The author has done a good job with her portrayal of Sadia, Nazreen and Amira. At least I feel so because the characters felt very real to me. First is Amira, a Syrian refugee. I could understand, if not relate, to her homesickness as she was forced to leave her country. Leaving Syria and moving to Canada was not a choice that she or her family consciously made. Sadia on the other hand, had moved to Canada before the borders were locked down. She sees it as a blessing in a form. I admired her conviction and faith. Nazreen confused me though. I kind of understood the peer pressure she had trouble handling. What I did not understand was her attitude towards Sadia. Was she just jealous that she did not have the same faith or conviction? Or was she just indifferent and used Sadia when needed?

The characters and the narrative style of the author really hold the book together. The book is easy to get into and it is easy to like the protagonists for what they are because of the author’s narrative style. The voices in the book rang true. The plot was weak though. For most parts, there weren’t any major conflicts and the minor conflicts that were depicted were handled pretty easily. At times it felt like the author was looking for easy resolution rather than fleshing the plot. Also, real life is much more difficult and messier than this.

Review Copy received from NetGalley

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