Title: A Girl Like That
Author: Tanaz Bhathena
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Page Count: 384
Release Date: February 27, 2018
Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school. You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that.
This beautifully written debut novel from Tanaz Bhathena reveals a rich and wonderful new world to readers. It tackles complicated issues of race, identity, class, and religion, and paints a portrait of teenage ambition, angst, and alienation that feels both inventive and universal.
I received an ARC of this book
from the publisher via Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. This in no way effects my overall rating of this book.
Y’ALL – THIS. BOOK.
I honestly have no idea how I’m going to write a review cohesively expressing all of my thoughts. To be completely honest, I wasn’t 100% sure what my thoughts were on this book at first.
My mind was a jumbled mess throughout this book. Not because it’s confusing or anything like that. Not by any means. But there was such a culture shock.
From the moment I heard about this book’s release last year I knew it would pack a punch. I honestly wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it because of that but I found that in recent months my reading taste has matured a lot.
This book isn’t one for the faint of heart. But it’s also not one I think you should skip.
I don’t want people sleeping on this book. I want people to buy it and read it and learn from it. I want this book to be the book that will keep people from being so blind about things that happen all of the time in countries that are always overlooked by the news. I want this book to be an eye-opener to show the truth of what really happens to women in countries where they aren’t seen as people with feelings, passions, and dreams.
I can’t say anything about the rep in this book. I have no place in saying if the rep of Hindus, Indians, Saudi Arabians, Abuse victims, Rape and sexual harassment victims, etc. etc. is correct or not because I myself know next to nothing about how these topics should be handled correctly.
BUT. From my knowledge, the way Bhathena wrote the race, identity, class, religion, rape, and abuse was accurate and/or handled it well. This is her debut novel and I was overwhelmed with the way she was able to stuff so much about religion and culture and social issues in her first book.
Going into this book I knew most of the basics about how women are treated in West Asian countries and the Middle East, as well as some of the more simple things about Hinduism and Muslim beliefs.
That being said, I was shocked by the things that are seen as normal and everyday in our main character Zarin’s life. She was always yelled at by her Masi (aunt) about covering herself properly like a girl should, and how she shouldn’t be looking boys in the eye because then she’ll give them the ‘wrong idea’.
I knew that culture and the society’s expectations of women were to cover up and never show your hair or skin or have tightly-fitted clothing around males or generally, in public, but this still gave me a shock as an American that hasn’t read about this before or really seen it on TV.
This book isn’t about Zarin’s death. This is about her life and the events that leaded up to her death. I found this to be an intriguing concept because we read about her and her friend Porus dying from a car crash in the beginning of the book.
Zarin lives a hard life. Her mother and father aren’t around. Her mother died in front of her eyes when she was a child – never truly remembering what happened to her. Her Masi abuses her and keeps her locked away in fear of boys going crazy after her. Her Masa (uncle) speaks against this abuse but never truly does anything to stop it.
As a sign-effect of that she smokes cigarettes on the roof of the school, hangs out with a different array of boys here and there. She becomes the talk of the school – and not in a good way. She builds up a ‘bad’ image of herself. Everyone in school sees her as the girl that always has guys begging on their knees for her, the girl that smokes and skips classes, and overall just doesn’t care.
But the thing is, Zarin has never seen herself truly happy. She is constantly in pain from the trauma of seeing her mother die in front of her at a young age, getting abused by the one that should be taking care of her, and constantly being called the ‘s’ and ‘w’ words at school because of rumors and gossipers.
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
Overall I think that this book is a very important book to read. It opened my eyes and made me have a lot of inner contemplation about my own privilege and injustices that are happening every day and are constantly deemed as ‘normal’. The only thing keeping me from rating this 5 stars is the fact that I wasn’t sure where the plot was going and it never seemed like there was much to resolve since we knew from the beginning that our main character is dead already.
TW: Rape, Sexual Assault, Abuse
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What’s a recent book you’ve read that takes place outside of the United States? Have you read this book yet? Are you planning on reading it? Let me know!