Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Swap A Bad Hair Day For: Does My Head Look Big In This?

Does My Head Look Big In This?
Randa Abdel-Fattah
Orchard Books
Reviewer: Allison

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!


rhapsodyinbooks said...

Good review: gives a lot to think about! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

that's a great review. I'm putting this on my wishlist! thanks.

tanita✿davis said...

I just finished this a couple of weeks ago, and it's a definite OWN book, you know? My library copy is just not enough. Great review.

Color Online said...

I really enjoyed this, too. For me, very little when it comes to our personal choices that are public are apolitical.

Amal is shoving her religion or choice down others' throat with her public display. She is exercise her right to define and act on what she believes.

This work is incredibly important especially in the context of talking about the rights of women, faith and politics.

I was very encouraged when I read Allison's review. It's great to hear what adults think, but to know what does and does not resonate with teens is the litmus test.

Ana S. said...

This one has been on my radar for some time - it's definitely an underrepresented topic in YA lit. I'm happy to hear the book does it jobs well!

Unknown said...

I'll be putting this on my challenge shelf. I own it already and we have two new students this year who wear hajibs! Great review.

MissA said...

I so wanna read this book! After reading this review, I'm moving it up higher on my wishlist :)
Awesome review allison!

A Cuban In London said...

Very interesting, especially as she is the one making the conscious decision to wear the hijab. Many thanks for the review.

Greetings from London.

Jill of The O.W.L. said...

Thanks for the review. I teach in a smaller school and have a few girls that wear the hijab. This helps me decide if I should recommend it to them or not.

Paradox said...

This sounds fascinating because there are few YA books out there about American Muslim teens. I'll definitely read this when I can find a copy.