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Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah - Review

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Where did I get it? Penistone library a few weeks ago, I had to renew it actually as I hadn't got round to it in the three week loan period!

What's it about? I have to say first of all that I thought this book was new - certainly the copy I had was new to the library, so I assumed. It isn't - it was published in 2005, and I think it's obvious just how far YA publishing has come in thirteen years. I didn't like this book very much but I was compelled to keep reading it to the end because I wanted to know what happened.

Amal is the main character, she is sixteen and goes to high school in Melbourne. Right at the beginning of the book she decides to start the new school year wearing hijab full time. She's worn it before, including at her old Islamic school, but never full time. She knows it's going to attract a lot of comments and attention. There's Tia, a racist bully, to contend with, and Adam, who Amal has a crush on. 

She has two best friends from her Islamic school, Leila and Yasmeen. Leila is also a "full timer", ie she wears the hijab all the time out of the house, and her mum is determined to set her up with an eligible man instead of letting her go to university like she wants to. Yasmeen's family is mixed race - her mum is white, and is a convert to Islam. 

Amal also has two friends at school. Eileen is Japanese, although we don't learn too much about her, and Simone is white and overweight. They both stand up for her when she faces racism and negative comments. The three girls also end up becoming closer to Adam and to Josh, who has a crush on Simone. 

The storyline about Amal and her hijab and what it meant to her and what her religion meant to her was a good one. I liked how her decisions were shown, I liked how Islam was portrayed, and I liked what happened with Adam. I think that this storyline is great for any modern teen to read, whether they're in the UK or Australia or American, whether they're Muslim or not, whether they know people who wear hijab or not.

But. One of the subplots includes Simone's weight, and I just found this tiresome at best. She's constantly hounded by her family because of her weight, and she body shames herself and constantly diets and goes on about what she is or isn't eating. She isn't "really fat" though, which annoyed me because, what if she was??? I found this whole part so depressing and fat shaming, and I really think that if the book was published now it would have been edited to make this subplot better. 

What age range is it for? 13+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No. You'd think none of them had ever even considered anyone could be queer, which I also found annoying. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Obviously. There's a lot of discussion of race and culture, which I did like. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Marijuana I think may be mentioned? 

Is there any talk of death? No 

Are there swear words? No 

What criticisms do I have? See above 

Would I recommend the book? Honestly no. I think there's far better examples of Muslim teens

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I had picked it up in the library because I thought it was new, I was quite disappointed it wasn't. 

What other books is it like? It's a lot like Saints and Misfits by S K Ali only not as good. 

How many stars? Four out of ten 

Where is the book going now? Back to the library if I remember to take it!

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