Farhana and Faraz are twins, born 6 minutes apart. Both are in turmoil as they approach the holy time of Ramadan. Farhana has to decide whether her faith is strong enough for her to wear the hijab at school and whether she can give up her relationship with handsome Malik. Faraz has fallen in with a street gang headed by unscrupulour Skrooz, when all he really wants is to combine his faith and his talent for art. Both teenagers have life-changing choices to make, against the peaceful backdrop of Ramadan. Do Farhana and Faraz have enough courage to do the right thing? And can they help each other - or will one of them draw the other towards catastrophe? When Faraz finally says no to the drug-dealing demands of Skrooz, it sets off a dangerous chain of events. This powerful novel explores ideas of right and wrong, and honour, and what they mean to different generations of Muslim families living in the west.
Na’ima B Robert is descended from Scottish Highlanders on her father's side and the Zulu people on her mother's side. She was born in Leeds, grew up in Zimbabwe and went to university in London. At high school, her loves included performing arts, public speaking and writing stories that shocked her teachers. Her popular 'From my sisters' lips' explored the reality of living as a Muslim woman in the West. She has written several multicultural books for children, including 'The Swirling Hijaab', 'Going to Mecca' and 'Ramadan Moon'. She is also the author of the teen novels 'From Somalia, with love', 'Boy vs Girl', 'Black Sheep' and the award-winning 'Far from Home', a historical novel set in Zimbabwe. Her cult classic 'She Wore Red Trainers' pioneered the 'halal romance novel' genre. She divides her time between London and Yorkshire and dreams of living on a farm with her own horses. Until then, she is happy to keep telling untold stories, calling for increased representation in children's books and mentoring other aspiring Muslim writers with her writing groups and programmes.
I received this book from the publisher and Teen Book Scene in exchange for a fair and honest review. I am in no way receiving any compensation for my review of this book.
I am somewhat familiar with Ramadan and some Pakistani customs. I'm also familiar with the fact that Pakistanis living in countries other than Muslim countries are faced with two different worlds- the one their parents were raised in that they are expected to follow with arranged marriages, no dating, drinking, smoking, or any other kind of imbibing and no partying of any kind, even if you don't do any of those things. Then there is the real world. The one they face every day at school with their non-Muslim friends where they talk about what they did over the weekend and the boys or girls they are dating and other things that "good" Muslims don't do. Here are a few phrases that describe what it is like at least for Farhana, " ...you are their daughter, a Pakistani girl, a Muslim. You are expected to stay chaste, away from all this teen romance nonsense." (p.65) And "...parties were out of the question, staying over at friends' houses was unthinkable." (p.65) Then, "...how crazy was that? All around her, the messages were the complete opposite. The music, the videos, the movies, the teen magazines, were all full of the same thing: boys, boys, boys! It was like if you weren't hooking up with some guy or the other, you were on of the last living freaks." (p. 65-66). In reading Boy vs. Girl, it gave me a better appreciation for what a difficult world it is for anyone that doesn't follow the normal societal code.
Faraz is a sensitive, shy, good looking possibly effeminate boy. He isnt gay. He just isn't sports minded like his father. He's artistic. He's described as a "pretty boy" by the bullies and gang members in the book. In order to protect himself, he joins a gang, knowing it isn't right, but feeling like there isn't a way out. And truthfully looking at his situation, I wouldn't know how to get out of it either. But as Ramadan approaches his aunt charges him to think about what he wants to get out of this Ramadan besides fasting. What does he want to accomplish. He has his own problems with his religion, never having been able to comprehend some of the language in the Qur'an. "What was the point of memorizing the Qur'an at madressah (Qur'anic school) if you couldn't even understand it at the end?" (p.78).
Farhana, his twin is brilliant and beautiful and has been secretly seeing a Muslim boy, Malik. But he broke her heart by seeing another girl and she hasn't been accepting his calls, but she still wants him. No matter how innocent it was, it is against what her mother and father would want for her and she thinks for Ramadan she will finally be over him. She also decides to wear the hajib the scarf over her hair and neck, not to display how devout she was, but "to make herself aware of God, her actions, being accountable, being a walking symbol of Islam." (p. 30) It had nothing to do with oppression.
I learned quite a bit about the wearing of the burqa -the full body covering and the niqab the veil that covers the face. The aunt that asked the twins about what they wanted from themselves during Ramadan, Aunt Najma, wore a jilbab- a loose flowing garment over regular clothes, a niqab, and even long black gloves. But she was educated at the university, went to mosque to pray and seemed to be active at least in helping homeless women. Of all the women Farhana and Faraz were around, she seemed to be the most liberated and of her own choosing, wore these garments as a show of commitment to her faith. She had no husband or man telling her she must wear them and in fact was almost shunned by her family for wearing them. As Farhana and her best friend discuss her aunt, Farhana laments that her grandmother "Naneeji's more interested in culture and what 'the community' will say"(p. 189) when her aunt wants to marry a non-Pakistani Muslim. Couldn't you just see your mother or grandmother saying something like that? I know mine has.
To say this novel was a fascinating look into the Pakistani culture would be a huge understatement. But that isn't all it is. It's a look at the generation gap between parents and their kids that occurs in many cultures. It's a look at the pressures kids face trying to live two different lives. And at the heart of it, it's a story about a brother and sister during the month of Ramadan who stray from their goals and find their way back in a somewhat drastic way to themselves.
I loved this novel. The writing style was so easy to read even with all the foreign words, there is a glossary in the back of the book. I read it easily in a few hours and was able to understand the religious aspects of the novel well enough to understand it's importance to the two main characters. The novel in no way is trying to convert you to Islam. Nor is it making a statement about Islam. It just happens to be a story that takes place during Ramadan, the holy month for Islam, and in an Islamic community. The story revolves around the brother and sister and what is happening with them. Both characters share the narration of the story and I got a real feeling for who they were as people. I understood their motivations even if I didn't agree with them.
I'd recommend this novel to anyone that wants to learn a little more about Muslim traditions. My previous misconceptions about the clothing were busted wide open in reading this novel. So were the mom and dad's. My 11yr old was reading over my shoulder for the last twenty pages and decided he'd like to read it and I'd say it's perfectly fine for the ten and up crowd. Read it. Maybe the more we know each other, the less scared we'll be to talk to each other.
THIS BOOK IS THE BEST EXAMPLE FOR AN ACTUAL MUSLIM REP IN FICTION.
For everyone going behind mainstream books looking for good Muslim reps, you guys, look at this. Boy Vs. Girl beats all other Islamic fiction books I’ve read, in terms of representation. Na'ima B. Robert has undoubtedly become my go-to author when I want to read something homely. Not that the book is a literary genius or anything, but it stays true to its roots, and that is what matters the most in diverse books.
Farhana and Faraz are twins. Their family, native to Pakistan, has been settled in the UK for the past few years. Being a Muslim in their schools is a lot difficult than it sounds. As the holy month of Ramadan approaches, with a little prodding from their religious Aunt Najma, both of them wants to incorporate their faith into their life. At first it seems easy. But then Farhana’s past relationship with Malik, and Faraz’s friendship with Skrooz, the drug dealer – all catches up on them.
The real struggle against external temptations and the inescapable consequences of an unhealthy relation, are all showcased wonderfully in this novel.
■•The relatable parts of the book – 100%. Seriously, every event and every incident and every single aspect of Farhana’s life was so damn relatable and it touched me on a very personal note. It was like seeing me in the book. Like, reading a book on me? 》The pressure of a conservative family. 》Especially a Muslim family and their stereotypes against girls. 》How Farhana had an entirely different personality at school, from how she is at home. 》The ‘accepting without questioning’ mentality of every single Muslim girl out there.. ARGHHH 》No one has said it better.
■•This book sheds some light on THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CULTURAL VERSION OF RELIGION AND ACTUAL RELIGION. 》THAT, my friends, is something that needs worldwide attention. 》People think Girls are oppressed in some parts of the world, because they wear a Burqa. That Muslim girls who don’t wear them, are liberals. 》In fact, those apparently ‘oppressed’ girls are only practicing their religion. 》IT IS YOUR OWN CHOICE WHETHER YOU DECIDE TO FOLLOW THE WAY OF DRESSING YOUR RELIGION PRESCRIBES. 》It does not make you any less ‘oppressed’ than the nuns who cover themselves, than the monks who wear whatever they wear. It’s not oppression; it’s a comfort, a means of security. 》No religion forces a way of life on their followers. It only suggests the best way to do things. AND IT GIVES YOU A CHOICE.
■•It focuses on Ramadhan. The holy month is heavily under-represented in Islamic books, fiction or not. 》The Ramadhan preparation – cleaning every nook and corner of the house – OH YES!! And I thought it happened only in our place lol 》The very real struggle of waking up for sehri, the meal before dawn. 》And the importance of the month is portrayed really well too. 》Also, the inner peace and happiness after the long Tarawih prayers. That’s some real stuff!
■•The cultural and age differences in ethnics and religious practices as well as the lack of understanding between the age gaps are very vividly outlined.
■•It also gives you a brilliant look at the lives of veiled Muslim women. A woman in veil does not mean that she is a pitiful, oppressed girl. The real person behind the veil might be as much or even more rebellious and outgoing than you are. We have seen and read books on the poor women in veils. This book was quite a refreshing, warming tale of how a woman wearing niqab isn’t just an illiterate lesser mortal than anyone else.
■•The very real struggle of following your religion vs. falling for external temptations. Uff. Farhana and Faraz’s story is an exemplar.
■•EVERY OTHER MENTION OF ART STOLE MY HEART.
■•This book had a very subtle hint of racism. As in, Farhana expressively hints that her parents are racist, but she herself wasn’t far behind on judging people by their color. (It isn’t very noticeable though, and the author never might’ve intended that way at all).
■•All the time, we are told that Farhana is this brilliant person. TOLD not SHOWN. (Excpet for the one time she argued with her teacher. THAT WAS BRILLIANT).
■•I have a justifiable hatred towards comparing people’s voices to food items. Sounded like melted chocolate? How does that sound? Try eating your own voices the next time sweet tooth strikes?
■•This stupid love triangle, which was more like, a line and a dot. BUT STILL.
■•Seems like Na’ima Robert has a knack for overtly dramatizing her books.
■•She just has to include every YA cliché’s possible.
■•It couldn’t have ended any other way I suppose, but, SAY NO TO CLICHÉ YA TROPES!
■•Lastly, I hate that cover! haha.
Anyways, you gotta give this book a chance if you’re looking for a book to enlighten you on Islamic practices without being preachy. The book has romance elements too, if that’s sort of your thing. Otherwise, I wouldn’t say the story was great or anything, but it is an important one, and I swear I’m gonna buy this book for my kids when they’re 12.
Re reading this gem again, I felt as if meeting a long time friend. Faraz and Farhana both have something to teach you.. Important thing that I completely missed out reading it first time was the racism, how our culture teaches us not to marry someone white or black, Just a brown guy who would beat you to death but you still have to be with them. Aunt Najma is amazing,she is one of the best supporting character a novel could ever have.
Boy Vs Girl was on my reading list for a long time, so I finally decided to buy the book. This book is about the brother and a sister who wanted to bring some changes in their lives in the month of Ramadan. But their past lives was not easy to end up. In the month of Ramadan, they learned the greatest lessons of life. Naima B Robert has written the book in the easy format which can make anybody to love and read the book. The characters in the story are very inspiring especially Aunt Najma’s. The writer has written the happy scenes very well and the story seems very real. The story contains drama, suspense, twists and much more Although at the beginning of the story, I kept flipping the pages but while more and more of it, I enjoyed the book and was completely lost in the book. I recommend this book to young Muslim adults and to those who love knowing about different cultures and religions
Farzana wants to wear a headscarf but is afraid of what the people around her will think. Faraz has never been an extremely popular kid and when a gang shows interest in "adopting" him, he joins but gets cold feet because he wants to be a better Muslim during the holy month of Ramzan. I think one of the reasons I enjoyed this book was because it resounded with my own life. Many Asians feel like they've got one foot in their home country and another in their adopted family. I sympathized with Farzana's plight of not being able to do whatever she wanted because of her gender and cheered when Aunt Naj tried to stand up for herself to her family. (My favorite character was definitely Aunt Najma.) Overall, Farzad's situation was more serious and was given more storyline. It seemed like the book focused only slightly on Farzana's daily life, not her problems, in a posh girls-only school (I mean, it was pretty obvious her friend Robbina was lying) and too much Faraz's gang problems. It may be because I am a female reader, but I definitely would have liked more story devoted to Farzana and her descent from popularity to pariah. But I thought it was bold of the author to switch up the plot - the main character is not trying to rebel against a strict family by refusing the hijab (as per usual), but instead trying to forge a connection, an agreement between her and her God, by fighting her family and friends to wear the headscarf. I also thought it interesting how a unique and kind character like Aunt Naj wore heavily layered veils like the niquab, which Westerners typically think is forced upon Muslim women. In that respect, this book changed my perceptions and stereotypes. I could immediately tell this was set in Britain because of the unusual words. I thought it was a fascinating look at the Muslim world. We used to go to Eid celebrations at the homes of Muslim friends, but I'd never truly grasped what Eid meant. One of my favorite parts was during the beginning of Ramzan, when Faraz and Farzana felt a sort of intimate connection with their religion and cultural heritage. I am definitely not a spiritual person but I really felt like I understood why it is that some people are. I suppose I'm trying to say it gave me more perspective of religious tolerance as a whole. The book was meaningful and deep. I thought the book could be improved to devoting more to Faraz's interest in art. Somehow, his being an artist and drinking pink protein shakes made him more real in my eyes than him going to mosque and suddenly becoming a whole new person.
I enjoyed it kind of, but at the same time, I didn't? If that makes any sense. It was just really meh, and I'm very displeased with the ending. I want to know what happened after, see them actually grow and become better. It was kind of half done which was disappointing.
Was the rep good? Well, yes in a way. Of course, Farhana and Faraz weren't practicing at the start, but afterward, that was good. And at least they acknowledged that they weren't doing the right thing and they attempted to change which is more than any YA "Muslim" teen has ever done.
I really wanted to know what happened to Auntie Naj!!! That ending was so unsatisfactory, I really wanted to know what happened to her. Honestly, her story was a lot more interesting than the twins.
I didn't click with the writing either, but it wasn't bad.
Overall, more like 2.75 stars. possibly full review to come
Beautiful, unexpected gratifying read from the young adult section!!! I couldn't put it down! I don't want to give too much away, but this book was REAL--that was the best part. Sr. Na'ima talks about REAL issues plaguing the ummah today not just the Bollywood-esque fantasy love stories we often hear about...this was the first book I read on my Kindle, and now I'll have to buy the hard copy as a part of my permanent collection...it was that good...I'm going to also push for a review for it in the magazine I write for that caters to an adult Muslim female audience....a GREAT read for teenagers and adults who need to get back down to earth and out of the clouds! It's shocking!!! (in a VERY GOOD way)!!!
No offense to the author, though. Na'ima B. Robert spoke at my school a few months back. She was articulate and fascinating. As a Muslim author of mixed descent, raised in Zimbabwe and currently residing in the UK, she showed both cultural sensitivity and knowledge of her field. That's not something you see every day.
We need authors like her: the ones who are willing to push back against stereotypes. The voices of real people. Also, the fact that she caters to a YA audience? Wonderful. There's not enough unique fiction in the YA genre. So, regardless of what I'm about to say in this review, I support this author 100% percent. She's got her head on straight.
But good intentions do not a good book make.
Things I Didn't Like About This Book:
1.Lack of Character Development: In a book as short as this one, you really need to get straight to the point.I don't think two POVs were necessary. There was a lot of explaining in this book, like "Look at our culture, look how different we are from white Christians" etc etc. I think a lot of that could have been cut out.
Instead, the author could have gone deeper into Farhana and Faraz's characters. If you can sum up a person's character in one sentence, that's not a real person. Also, there's so much talk about their relationship with each other, but that relationship doesn't actually exist. This is where the saying "Show, don't tell" needs to be put into practice.
2.YA Cliches: You'd think that a book as unique as this one could do without those overused tropes you see in every YA novel ever.
Protagonist is OMFGZ SOOOOOO DIFFERENT from the other girls? Check. (Shazia wears hijab because her parents want her to do so. Robina is a slut. But Farhana? No, she's special--she does it out of the goodness of her own heart!)
Love triangle involving protagonist, a boy, and a stereotypically slutty and manipulative mean girl? Check.
Protagonist is the epitome of beauty but doesn't realize it? Check.( pg.5 : "With her green eyes framed by long, dark eyelashes and full lips, guys often compared her to Aishwara Rai, the famous Bollywood actress. As if. Guys will say anything to get what they want."-- Way to go. Reduce Farhana's image to a cultural stereotype, why don't you? By the way, her name is spelled Aishwarya...editor, I am disappoint.)
The writing, overall, was not the best writing I've ever seen. Like I said before, there's too much telling and not enough showing. To quote Renni Brown and Dave King from their book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print, "When you show your story rather than tell it, you treat your readers with respect. And this respect makes it easier to draw them into the world you've created."
This book could do with a little more respect.
pg. 24 "Unlike last year, y'mean?" Farhana couldn't resist having a dig at her brother's pathetic show of fasting the year before. Okay, if Farhana just said "Unlike last year, y'mean" there's no need for you to tell me what she's saying right after she says it.
On pg. 36, Faraz's crush is literally described as "the girl of his dreams." No subtlety there. There are a million ways to show that a person likes someone. But if you must tell it rather than show it, can you at least pick a phrase that isn't the oldest cliche in the book?
pg. 110 "When they sat next to each other on the way home in the car, the twins did not need words. They both knew, almost instinctively , that this night was a turning point." At this point I found myself going WHO CARES. Don't tell me it's the turning point. When I'm finished the book, I'll know what the turning point was, thank you very much.
Also, what was with the amount of exclamation marks in this book? Elmore Leonard wrote of exclamation marks: "You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose." Exclamation marks show inexperience. They're shorthand for emotion: you're trying to convey that the character's frustrated or upset or whatever, but you can't do that effectively, so you tack on these little punctuation marks and call it a day.
Another thing. Asian and desi (a term referring to the people of the Indian subcontinent) are not interchangable. Say it with me. ASIAN IS NOT DESI. ASIAN IS NOT DESI. ASIAN IS NOT DESI. If you mean desi, for the love of all that's holy, say desi. You're not making your reader like you by pussyfooting around the issue."Asian" is not even a culture. It's like saying "African"--like, ummm, you are aware that there's literally thousands of cultures within that continent, right?
A good editor might have fixed all this. They're relatively small issues, but when they get in the way of the reader's enjoyment, the book's message doesn't come through effectively.
Being a Muslim teenager is not easy. I would know. But I also know, through 13 years of going to Islamic school in America, that we are more than our religion, we are more than our cultures. Faith is just one facet of our being, and it manifests itself in a different way for each person. We are just as complicated as your average white Christian girl next door. So why are the teenagers in this book so...dry?
Either you're a perfect pure girl like Farhana or you're a "ho-jabi" (or worse, one of those absolute whores , the non-hijabis) who tries to be trendy and "struts their stuff." Um, what? Okay, so some girls dress in skinny jeans and hijabs...that does not make them a bad person. That's not up for you to judge. Are you God? No. I wish Muslims as a community would recognize this. By focusing on hijab as the be-all-and-end-all of a woman's piety, you're reducing a woman to her outer appearance, when she is so much more than that.
You do realize the way people dress is extremely subjective and changes from situation to situation? Not everyone is dressing to attract men. And a woman shouldn't be held responsible for who is attracted to her. That's the same mentality that says the victim in a rape was asking for it.
It's ugh. My whole feeling about Farhana is ugh. I'm going to wrap it up now because I am just really frustrated. To sum it up, this book was well-intentioned, and Faraz's parts were actually palatable, unlike his sister's, but in the end...if you're a teen, and you're looking for a book that really gets you, this isn't it. If you're a non-Muslim looking for insight on what Muslim life is, please, PLEASE do not read this. I'm sorry. But this isn't the way things are. Nevertheless, a not-so-great attempt is better than no attempt at all, and I look forward to whatever the author is going to write next.
Title: Boy vs Girl Author: Nai’ima B. Robert Genre: Coming of age/Family/Drama Publication Date: March 2011 (OUT NOW)
Description: Farhana swallowed and reached for the hijab. But then she saw with absolute clarity the weird looks from the other girls at school, and the smirks from the guys. Did she dare? And then there was Malik… What should she do about him? Faraz was thinking about Skrooz and the lads. Soon he would finally have the respect of the other kids at school. But at what price? He heard Skrooz’s voice, sharp as a switchblade: “This thing is powerful, blud. But you have to earn it, see? Just a few more errands for me…” They’re twins, born 6 minutes apart. Both are in turmooil and both have life-changing choices to make, against the peaceful backdrop of Ramadan. Do Farhana and Faraz have enough courage to do the right thing? And can they help each other – or will one of them draw the other towards catastrophe? This powerful novel explores the idea of honour and what it means to different generations of Muslim families.
Review: This book was something I normally would have not picked up but I’m glad I was able to read it. I was moved by the Muslim customs in this book and it allows you to put yourself in their position, regardless of your religious upbringing. What struck me is the Muslim culture suffers from so much racism; even bringing their children up in different countries they are still expected to follow the Pakistani way, even if the opposite sex is Muslim and white, black, brown or whatever. They are not and will not be a part of their families. I felt myself shuttering when the families absolutely refused to hear anything otherwise. The story of the book covers from a male and female perspective; twin boy (Faraz) and girl (Farhana). He wants to be accepted at school but at what cost? He has fallen into the ‘gang’ crowd. As much as he wants out, especially with Ramadan in full swing, he does not have the courage to stand up for himself and say no. He finds himself beating up guys with bats and selling drugs. His sister is struggling with her identity as a Muslim. She wants to wear the hijab (headscarf) but her mother refuses to hear of it. If she defies her and wears it what will happen with her social status at school? She’s been told she is supermodel beautiful but wearing the hijab will force the eyes of boys (and girls) to look the other way. Is this really what she wants? As they are struggling to come into their own a horrible accident happens and threatens to take the life of one of the twins. Will the family pull together to overcome this or will they fall completely apart? No matter what your religious background I highly recommend reading this book, especially to the YA crowd. Gangs, drugs, peer pressure is everywhere…
I really enjoyed Boy vs Girl. Na'ima B. Robert contacted me and asked if I'd be interested this book, and when I read what it was about, I thought 'not something I'd normally read maybe, but I'll give it a try' and readers, I'm glad I did. But it isn't as different as I thought it would be. While it is still two teenagers caught up in making the right decisions for themselves, dealing with peer pressure and worrying about what others would think it ultimately has so much more packed into it as well.
It's the story of two kids trying to find their place in the world, being Pakistani but born in England. Which is more important? How do they find that balance between the traditional and modern? How are gender roles reconciled? How do they choose and act upon their religion without seeming too 'extreme' to other people? Judgement seems to be a pretty big theme within this book, both from those within the Muslim community and those outside of it. These are a lot of concerns that I think a lot of teenagers and adults in Britain are dealing with, and I'm glad that Na'ima B Robert has given them a voice. I hope there will be more YA novels like this one.
At the start of the story, 16 year old twins, Faraz and Farhana are about to partake in Ramadan, in which Muslims fast from sun-up to sunset and try to better themselves and re-assert their faith with themselves and through prayer. Farhana thinks that maybe this could be the right time for her to start wearing a hijab, but she's afraid of what her mother and the girls at school will think. She's also still reeling a bit from her break-up with Malik, though he still keeps calling her... Faraz, on the other hand, is keen to pursue his interest in art and a new Muslim artist he meets, but his connection with Skrooz and his gang brings more trouble for him and his family as Faraz is unable to tell him 'no' and walk away.
I really loved the twins' Auntie Najma. She plays an important role in both Faraz and Farhana's journey, but also stirs up some controversy of her own by wanting to get married to a white Muslim man. I really related to this aspect of the story, being the (half) white girl married to an Indian man. While his family didn't take issue with me, other 'friends of the family' did and caused a mini-uproar, similar to one in the book. I also loved reading about all the food preparation, the samosas and the pakoras and everything else. Made my mouth water thinking about all that tasty food! And I thought Faraz and Farhana were really sweet as brother and sister, I nearly wept at a certain scene towards the end of them together.
Although the idea of the book was typical and corny - the Muslim girl struggling with boys and wearing a headscarf, and the Muslim boy struggling with gangs - it was the execution of it that made it fall flat. I think it could have been incredibly profound and even thought-provoking, but it felt like a quickly-written first draft, with little to no depth.
Characters were described by long paragraphs. There was zero development and zero evidence of said descriptions. Beautiful and intelligent Farhana has the face of a Bollywood star. Her twin brother Faraz is embroiled in a gang. Yet, despite Farhana being described as strong-minded and willing to give a piece of her mind should she see anybody up to some fuckery, she will simply sit by the window as the moonlight glistens on her tears when Faraz goes out into the night with his gangmates.
There was a bit of slut-shaming thrown in, too. Farhana's rival for Malik is a slutty bitch. Sluts are bitches. Typical. I especially disliked how Farhana told Shazia that is is good she is wearing a headscarf, even if she thinks it is. It is how Shazia's struggle was not acknowledged, the fact that her wearing it was enough. End of matter. No woman should be forced to wear it. Likewise, no woman should not be allowed to wear it. One was Shazia's problem, the other was Farhana's.
P.S. I find it rather funny how the writer clearly likes to throw herself into her fiction as the 'cool auntie'. She did it in her previous book, From Somalia, With Love. She does not even bother to change the name!
Farhana and Faraz are twins. Born minutes apart, they couldn't be more different. Farhana is the good student, the popular one, president of her all-girl's school debate team. Faraz is the quiet, artistic one, who struggles to fit in at the mixed gender comprehensive. But as Ramadan approaches, both Frahana and Faraz struggle with big issues that they feel they can't share with their parents. Farhana wants to start wearing the hijab, but worries about the reaction she will face from her family, peers and society. Faraz is being pulled deeper and deeper into the life of the South Asian gangs, be forced to do things he doesn't want.
Can the siblings help each other overcome their issues in time to avoid a major tragedy?
This second book for teens by Na'ima B. Robert explores what it is like to be a Muslim teen in Britain. And again, she opens up that world to both insiders and outsiders, exploring ideas and themes in a frank way. There are times that the message overwhelms the story, but I did like the fact that one of the biggest rebels in the book was the one who wore the niqab.
A good addition for school and class libraries, regardless of the population.
This is an enjoyable story of two teenagers trying to find their place in the world. Born in Britain to Pakistani parents, they struggle with the religious aspects of their daily lives. At the start of Ramadan, the twins make the decision to be better, more prayerful Muslims but gradually they find themselves falling into old habits with the demands and choices of everyday life.
Both Faraz and Farhana are worthy protagonists, however, one of my favourite characters in the book is Aunt Najma. She plays an important role in the twins' spiritual journey, but she also has a rebellious streak and has the family abuzz when it is discovered she wants to marry a white man. Dealing with issues such as family, religion, tradition, choices and trust, I found this to be a really interesting book.
This book could have been way better, if not for the awful writing. No offense to the author, obviously. It's wonderful to see a Muslim woman take up writing about Islam. But I feel like she is not doing a good job on that. Hijab & Drug Issues are very controversial matters, so if written about them, it must be executed well. She had a very tremendous idea, but unfortunately she failed to execute it properly. If I wasn't a Muslim myself, then I wouldn't really understand the whole concept due to lack of execution. There were other flaws in writing, such as wrong usage of words & poor character development. Overall, good idea, but awful execution & immature writing.
Would be an interesting read for adolescents trying to understand the conflicts and pressures on practicing Muslim teenagers in a gritty urban setting: gangs, drugs, to wear or not wear the hijab. The main characters are Pakistani-British twins. I found it a bit preachy, but will put it on "Crossing Borders" reading list.
Unfortunately this book has a very heavy message behind it. The author makes no effort to spread her message through a story, instead it reads as a 'Merits of Ramadan' book. I liked learning about the meaning behind Ramadan and the positive impact it has on those who participate in it. But at the same time, I quickly grew weary of the 'miraculous' transformation Faraz and Farhana underwent. Both of them became calmer and felt at peace. Perhaps it's the skeptic in me but I found that hard to believe. Do people change so quickly all of sudden because of religion? This is just one of many characteristics of the twins that contribute to their perfection. Both of them are gorgeous, obedient to their parents and talented. Faraz might not be an A student but he's a fantastic artist. Farhana is a genius. It was hard for me to see these main characters as flawed simply because Farhana asserts herself and wants to be allowed to attend nightly prayer (which only women are allowed to do) or because she had a crush on someone. The book also starts off very slowly and the dilemmas of Faraz and Farhana are merely hinted at for a large part of the book. I was expecting a bit of an introduction but then we would dive right into the story. That is not the case. The book is very short (256 pages, large print, short chapters) and it can't afford to get off to such a slow start. Plus the writing isn't anything special, it keeps the story moving but the descriptions and characterization are just....ordinary.
At the same time, I did like that this book offered a view of a religion (Islam) that I'm not very familiar with from a teen perspective. Gradually, Farhana and Faraz come off their religious high and start to battle with it. This made them both seem more authentic. Instead of blindly going along with their faith, they struggle with certain components of it. It's interesting because this book does an excellent job of pushing past Western stereotypes about Muslims. Farhana's mum DOES NOT want her to wear the hijab. Her mother believes it's too extreme and that it will give people the wrong idea, that Muslims are oppressive. And if we're honest with ourselves, many of us do think that way. I used to until I read Does My Head Look Big in This? Books like Boy vs. Girl go a long way towards helping people to be more understanding of Muslim culture. Then you have Farhana's young, 'hip' auntie Najma who wears a jilbab (long cloak) and a niqab (face veil) but she also has her nose pierced and wears jeans under her kurta tunics. While Farhana was too perfect, Faraz was easier to relate to. He ends up associating with people he probably shouldn't and hides the troubles he's going through from his family. Any teenager can understand that.
Boy vs. Girl is an engaging drama because there is a sense of foreboding. The book starts off at a snail's pace but I knew that there would have to be some kind of dramatic showdown and it didn't disappoint. The plot often gets buried under all the religion. Traditions and prayers are explained in a great deal of depth which is good for those like me who are still trying to learn about Islamic beliefs. Not so good if you (like me) were hoping the religion would only be a backdrop and make up one part of the story. I would have liked to hear less about Farhana and Faraz's new-found devotion and more about the difficulties of being a teenager in London who happens to be South Asian. There was one little plot line that disappeared completely (concerning Faraz and painting a mural). This book could use a bit more polishing but it works well as an introduction to what it's like being a Muslim teenager in the UK. There's some frustrating racism and some unexpected surprises (like see-through shalwar kameez that are supposed to cover all of you. There's some rebellion). There are many different perspectives on how to handle being Muslim in the 2st century and these perspectives will keep readers learning and the dramatic tension will have readers racing to finish the book
Farhana stood in front of het full-length mirror and scrutinised her reflection. Her hair was loose, ready to be restrained in a regulation ponytail for school. But for now, it hun gabout her shoulders and down her back, straight, but not dead straight enough to be the height of fashion. Nothing a pair of ceramic straighteners wouldn’t fix, though. All the hot Asian girls wore their hair dead straight nowadays- curls were so out. She peered at her skin, smooth, the colour of latte, with a hint of mocha. With her green eyes framed by long, dark eyelashes and full lips, guys often compared her to Aishwarya Rai, the famous Bollywood actress. As if. Guys will say anything to get what they want. Her school uniform sat loosely on her tall frame and skimmed her curves, just the way her mum liked it. No jumper bought two sizes too small for her, no skirts hitched up above the knee. Her version of the school uniform was just modest enough- what a decent Paistani girl should look lik, as Ammiji would say. But as she adjusted her waistband her eyes flickered upwards, towards the white piece of mirror. In the back of her mind, she could hear her Auntie. ‘The hijab is a protection, not an oppression. Your body, the beauty not to bes een by yust anyone. You’re worth so much more than that.’ Farhana swallowed hard and reached for the hijab. She imagined herself folding in into a neat triangle, the edges precisely matched, lifting it under her chin, taking a pin and pinning it closed, drawing the two ends over her shoulders Farhana in hijab. Did she dare?”, a part of the book Boy vs Girl.
This book tells the story of the sixteen years old twins Farhana & Faraz. Farhana is struggling to wear the hijab but something bothers her somewhere. She was always in to fashion. She wants to be the good girl. Farhana & Faraz are struggling with their identities: the British and the Pakistani identity. While Farhana the sweet and smart girl never gets trouble at school her brother is always is to fights and troubles. He ends up in a gang with drugs. One day she descides to wear the hijab. Her mother didn’t like her idea.
You are so vain, Farhana, she told herself, and felt a stab of guilt. This was not a beauty accessory, like one of her many diffrent hats or her fuchsia pashmina. This was worship. And that was just what she tried to tell Ammiji when she has come down to breakfast in her scarf. Dad and Fraz were still upstairs getting dressed. As soon as Ammiji had caught sight of her, she had taken a deap breath: “Farhana”, she had said, “why are you dressed like that?”Farhana was so taken back by the irony of her mother’s question that she almost laughed. “Like what, Ammiji?”She had asked, trying to sound normal, but hating the look of fear and incomprehension in her mother’s eyes. “Like that!”Ammiji raised her voice. “That is not a part of your school uniform, is it? What are you trying to do? Cause a problem for your father and me with the school? Show everyone how religious you are?”
The basic premise: Farhana and Faraz are twin sister and brother who are in the midst of deciding how far they want to follow the Muslim traditions of their family.
While I appreciate this one certainly will speak to a readership and while I appreciate it fills a niche in the young adult world, I could not get past the fact it was all message and no story. I got caught up from the beginning: it's almost Ramadan and the two teens are struggling with whether to practice and use the time to really investigate what their goals are or if they want to pursue their worldly interests (which are, of course, sort of outside the religious tradition). But the thing is, what made this different than any other time? There wasn't a trigger for me and there wasn't anything really at stake (aside from the eternal damnation thing, which I guess is pretty bad but I didn't know since wasn't conveyed through the story). So while reading, I couldn't help but think so what? Why do I care about these characters? I didn't get enough development to feel invested. Nothing compelled me forward through the story. Instead, I got a lot of messages of how to be proper during Ramadan.
More than that, though, I had a hard time with the writing. It was underdeveloped and being in the third person, I felt really distanced from the characters. I'm actually ok reading books where there's not a huge trigger -- this story could have gotten by on being an experience of one Ramadan with the twin brother and sister had it been written in first person. I'd have felt connected to the characters and could have gotten much more into their mindsets. Instead, I was told how they felt in a moderately preachy manner.
I was able borrow a copy of this book from a friend, and I'm glad I did. This was my first experience reading this author and she did not disappoint!
It handled all the sideplots well and developed the characters. Farhana's questions about her faith and culture were very relatable; her anger over cultural gender roles and her parent's hidden racism. Anyone of South Asian background will know what she's on about.
Farhan was a bit of a mummy's boy... but that's true in a lot of Asian households unfortunately so it wasn't unrealistic. I liked seeing his gentle side, love of art and his struggling to 'man up' for his peers; also the gang stuff was handled well, the way the South London boys talk and everything.
I loved how the twins learnt about Islam through their aunt, who's both cool and a Niqabi! Many people think the two aren't mutually inclusive.
My only gripes were that some parts were a bit cringey to read like Farhan's 'crush' on his sister's friend. Also that he never gets called out for acting like a creep around her?
Farhana came off as a bit of a walking stereotype at times. She struggles with her decision to wear the hijab, her boyfriend, her spiteful female friends and everything in your typical YA Muslimah protagonist. I wish there were more of the great scenes where she shines and less of these generic traits I've seen everywhere.
But this was some good Muslim rep. Would recommend!
twins farhana and faraz attempt to get their lives in order during ramadan: farhana decides to try wearing the hijab and stay away from the boy she's seeing, faraz attempts to pull away from the gang he's recently been getting pulled into. plot ensues
reading the reviews for this book has been at least as interesting as the book itself because it sounds like it reads very differently based on context
like it's certainly something new based on the general ya scene? because hahaha, oh ya, you are sadly lacking in brown or muslim protaganists of any measure
but at the same time, this plot is basically ripped from your standard ris or emc lecture about directly talking to your kids about the challenges they're facing today so
like that's not a criticism! i'd say this is a fairly realistic book, i've known girls like farhana especially. just, y'know, interesting case study in how specific a reading experience is to the reader
Admittedly, I was surprised by how good this book turned out. I guess I expected something more patronizing... I don't know. But the characters were real, their experiences were real, and Robert covers the whole loop - the good, the bad, and the ugly. The highs and the lows. I think it's a really worthwhile read for Muslim teenagers, and I guess I'd have to leave it at that; I can't see non-Muslim teens understanding and appreciating it as much. I could be wrong. I'm looking forward to reading other books by her (:
One of my favourite novels. It explores the complicated lives of Muslim teens - more specifically from the British Pakistani culture. It’s placed in the backdrop of Ramadan where the two main characters are encountering life changing decisions, whilst struggling with their identities. It was a real pager tuner and explored many pertinent questions from the value of honour, relationships and identity.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
From the first page i was somewhat able to relate to Farhana. She is an Asian ( Pakistani) in the UK trying to fit in...( me Indian trying to fit in the USA). she uses Indian terms, and India foods (yumm) and Rest of it is on my Blog : http://omgitsfishy.blogspot.com/2011/...
An interesting insight into what it's like to be a Muslim growing up in Britain today and feeling caught between 2 cultures. Family values, love, gang warfare, bullying, drugs - and a really exciting ending!
This book is a great book,that shows you the in sight of everyday muslim youth and the issues they face,as well as in sights such as family gatherings,a great heart warming book,worth reading for any teenager.
I really enjoyed reading this book. It is a captivating read especially as it takes place over Ramadan. I learnt a lot about Ramadan reading this book, and I am glad to have done so. The story is a little slow to get going but I was quickly wrapped up in it. A thoroughly enjoyable read.