I received an e-copy of this book in exchange for an one and honest review.
Before reading my review of God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems, please read these fantastic #OwnVoices reviews of the book:
Please let me know of other #OwnVoices reviews I can link up!
God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems is an #OwnVoices young adult, contemporary mystery novel. This first line of the book description is “LIKE NANCY DREW, BUT NOT…” I want to highlight the “BUT NOT” piece for one main reason. It is only like Nancy Drew in the fact that there is a mystery and the main character identifies as a young woman. Other than that, stand aside Nancy Drew because this book is leaps and bounds more interesting in both the mystery and the contemporary story. Now that we have that out of the way, we can continue onto the review!
The story follows Asiya, a Muslim teenager, dealing with all the things teenagers deal with – school, parents, siblings, friends, crushes, oh, and a murder mystery. The mystery itself is well constructed and becomes a main focus of the story early on. Usually I find mysteries where I do not have all the information before the solution is revealed to be tedious. I really like trying to figure it out, using information presented. Now, all the evidence doesn’t have to be direct evidence. I am fine with making inferences, as long there is a reasonable chance I will be able to deduce the answer. I have found in the past, I get frustrated when the solution is out of the blue and one I would never get to because key pieces of information were omitted from the story. In this case, I felt like I did not have all the information… but I was so enamored with the story and the mystery that I did not care. In addition, the mystery was central to the book and helped with the great character development of Asiya. Sometimes, mysteries are tacked on as a sub-plot, but the murder mystery was essential and helped highlight the key relationships and other dynamics in the book.
The representation in this book is refreshing and unapologetic. Asiya, like I mentioned above, is a teenager like any other teenager, dealing with teenager things. Unlike many teenagers I have read about in young adult novels, Asiya has to negotiate and balance her experience as a Muslim daughter and her experience as an ‘American’ teen. This positive representation is much needed. Throughout a lot of the story and conflicts, we get a glimpse at the structure and dynamics of the Haque family. While many folks outside of Asiya’s experience might see her family as stifling or overly strict, I got to see how strong her family is and how much they would sacrifice for each other. Asiya’s mother wants the very best for her and would do anything for her daughter. Asiya’s father shows his love with every interaction, supporting her while also pushing Asiya to be the best she can be. Asiya’s brother, although clueless, is undoubtedly loyal to her in everything.
The character that frustrated me to no end was the police officer, a White man of course. “In need to sensitivity training” is a bit of an understatement. What it showcased (and I think my frustration was intended by the author) is the huge gaps culturally between Asiya’s family and community with the rest of the town. There are examples throughout the book but I saw the police officer in particular, do many things to exacerbate the cultural gaps. Unfortunately, the interactions in the book happen in real life. Regardless of the resolution of the mystery with the police (no spoilers here!), I never trusted the police or felt like they worked even the slightest to understand the perspectives Asiya and her family are coming from, which is at the same time heartbreaking and true in many cases.
Overall, I think this is a fantastic book. The story is well-paced, Asiya is very witty, and the book addresses Islamophobia head on. Plus this book set up a robust young adult mystery series. At the end of this book, there is a pretty big cliffhanger with a major character! I will definitely be reading book number two because I need to know the resolution of the next mystery, and also because I have confidence this will be a good series. If you haven’t already checked it out, take a look at God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems by Ishara Deen.
Final Rating: 4.3/5