Does My Head Look Big In This?
16-year-old Amal is a pretty typical teenager--she stresses over school, has crushes on boys, and loves her friends. When she decides to wear the hijab (Muslim head scarf) full-time, she begins an emotional and spiritual journey where she discovers a lot about who she is, what she believes in, and what it means to her. Despite criticism and assumptions from many people around her, she has made her choice and plans to stick to it.
I really enjoyed this book! Amal is a very likable and realistic person. She is smart, strong, funny, and she knows what is important to her and tries her best to stick to it. However, she can be immature and let her emotions get the best of her at times--just like anyone can. Her first-person narration felt smooth and natural; I found this book hard to put down once I got going!
The other characters in the book are very diverse and realistic as well. Amal has her school friends, Muslim friends, her parents, extended family, her cranky old neighbor... they all make for interesting conflicts and a dynamic story. Although this book is ultimately about Amal, it touches on many other issues from eating disorders and self-image to a friend's traditional mother trying to force her daughter into marriage. Also, I absolutely loved Amal's Greek-Orthodox neighbor, Ms. Vaselli, and the major impact Amal had on her.
When the book touched on Islam or Amal's choices, it wasn't in an overly preachy style. Instead, it explained what was going on--traditions, holidays, language--so that the reader could understand something they might have not otherwise. Still, when Amal would mention that people couldn't see that her hijab was just a piece of material I was a little thrown off. I don't mean that I thought the people should make a big deal out of her hijab, but it's not the fact that it's a piece of material as much as it's what it represents to her, right?
I think the part of the book that will always stand out most to me is at the beginning when Amal first wears the hijab to school. As she's arguing with the principal, she tells him that making the choice was personal. He replies by saying that it's obviously not, and it's actually a rather public choice. I thought it was really interesting to think about--it's a personal decision that's important to her, but at the same time, that personal decision is on display for everyone to see.
All in all, I loved this book! I think it's an important read, especially because this is such an underrepresented topic in YA fiction. Four and a half stars!
My name is Allison. People make fun of me for bringing a book everywhere (and I do mean everywhere) I go, but it’s totally worth it. I’m a reader, a blogger, and I know someday I’ll be an author. For now, I’m just looking forward to graduating high school and seeing more of the world!
Read more of Allison's reviews at Read Into This!