Thank you to Simon and Schuster Books for this arc in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
It’s the last few days of her vacation in Pakistan, and Amina has loved every minute of it. The food, the shops, the time she’s spent with her family—all of it holds a special place in Amina’s heart. Now that the school year is starting again, she’s sad to leave, but also excited to share the wonders of Pakistan with her friends back in Greendale.
After she’s home, though, her friends don’t seem overly interested in her trip. And when she decides to do a presentation on Pakistani hero Malala Yousafzai, her classmates focus on the worst parts of the story. How can Amina share the beauty of Pakistan when no one wants to listen?
This story is one that I think many young people and even adults will be able to relate to a lot. A story about belonging and being the child of parents who immigrated to a different country for various reasons and now you’re in between two worlds. A story about how even though there can be many differences in being from different cultures there are also many things that can bring us together.
Reading this book reminded me of how I felt when as a young teen I went to Pakistan for a holiday and while I loved it, I couldn’t shake that feeling of not quite fitting in and yet being born and raised in the UK, sometimes I still feel like I don’t quite fit in. That sense of not quite belonging in either place because you are a combination of both cultures and also how you may even reject one culture to be able to belong in the other. Amina doesn’t want to wear salwar kameez or take Pakistani food to school for lunch because it would make her stand out and yet her white friend can bring kebabs without feeling like that. There were so many scenes like this in the book that really hit home for me and how I had felt growing up.
How when the only thing you see about countries you’re family is from is how “backwards” and “violent” they are it can make you want to distance yourself from it yet that isn’t the truth of things and people being violent is a universal thing no matter where you are from. As Amina learns about Malala and tries to show the beauty of Pakistan through her she is faced with people only seeing how a group of people hurt a young girl when all she wanted was to get an education. How people pity girls from there but don’t see how the same thing is happening in their own countries albeit in different ways. That there are incredible people all over the world. I just truly loved how Hena wove all this into the story and showed how beautiful countries like Pakistan can be.
I really liked how Amina has an internal conflict but is determined to show how beautiful her heritage and culture is. It felt so real and relatable and also woven into the story of friendship and family and loving each other despite differences.
At the end when Amina shared the stories of some of the many incredible women from Pakistan and their incredible achievements, it was wonderful to see and seeing people’s reactions go from pity to awe. In the west we are rarely told positive stories of people living in places like Pakistan and I love how Hena tackled this problem through Amina’s story.
This book is one I related to deep in soul and I am so happy to see these stories being published where we can celebrate our heritage and culture instead of being ashamed by it. It’s a wholesome story of love between family and friends and how despite being worlds apart you can still be connected to each other.