Maya Aziz wants to be a good Indian daughter for her parents, marry another Muslim Indian boy, and get a “good” job. However, she has dreams of going to NYU, and she wants to be a filmmaker. She is also torn between dating the good Muslim boy that her mother had chosen for her, and her friend Phil who she has secretly crushed on for a while but who has just recently become single. She tries to convince her parents to let her go, and when they seem to be relenting a little, the worst thing possible happens. A “terrorist attack” occurs a few hundred miles away from where she lives, but the accused perpetrator has the same last name as her and her family. Now, hateful members of their community are coming after her and her family, thinking that they have some sort of link to the attacker. Maya has to find her own way to still go to school through this, and she still wants to follow her dreams and go to NYU.
First, let’s talk about Maya and her family. At first, they seem to have everything together. But then, when things start to get dicey, they never seem to talk to each other and only want to do things impulsively. I think that rather than springing NYU on her parents the way she did, Maya should have brought it up to her parents far before the deadline, and then done things to prove that she was responsible enough to go. She acted as irresponsibly as her parents expected her to be, which could have contributed to the conflict of the book. Maybe, she could have made a short film online and garnered support for it on Youtube or something. Just to prove to her parents that people would enjoy her work. Anything to prove that she had the ability to truly become a filmmaker.
I also wish that more of her time had been spent with Violet! Her best friend was literally willing to follow her and help her out with ANYTHING, but she spends very little time in the book focusing on her, but instead spends most of her time focusing on the Muslim boy that her mom set her up with and Phil. Also, even though she says that Phil was her friend before they started liking each other, I got the feeling that they didn’t really know that much about each other. I was expecting them to be like “childhood friends to lovers,” but they seemed to just be high schoolers that occasionally saw each other and decided to start dating one day.
Maya’s aunt was wonderful! Hina always wanted to help Maya follow her dreams, as she had gone against everything to follow hers. It was strange for Maya’s mom to say that she had constantly supported Hina, but then not want to support her own daughter. It was sort of like her mother saying “I supported you, but I never really liked what you were doing, and I think that you ultimately failed in life.” I think that this must have been really hurtful for Hina, but she still supports Maya in her dreams, which is admirable.
I won’t say much about the end, but I will just say that I wasn’t happy with the way Maya settled things with her parents. I especially didn’t like what she did to try and “find herself” again, I thought it was really immature and did nothing but show her parents that she really wasn’t ready. Her parents did love her, but she basically doesn’t consider their feelings at all. Her mother was portrayed as only caring if Maya was married, and Maya has a scene where she is slightly jealous of someone talking about memories of playing with their mother. I’m sure that Maya’s mother wasn’t cold-hearted and strict throughout Maya’s entire life. If that was so, Maya would not have been able to have a video camera and would have had far stricter rules to follow than she did. This portrayal of Maya’s parents as being “evil” contradicted some of the things that her parents did in the book itself, and it just made the story even more unrealistic.
Something else worth mentioning is that Maya is not portrayed as being very Muslim. There is a scene where the “good Muslim boy” drinks wine and says that his parents drink wine, but “at least they don’t eat pork.” While I may not be Muslim, one of my good friends is, I know a lot of other people who are, and I saw the other reviews on Goodreads saying that this doesn’t even make sense. There is no such thing as a “good sin” or a “bad sin,” so they should not be drinking at all. It would be interesting if they also spoke about wearing the hijab and then taking it off to protect themselves after the attack, but the family never even goes to the mosque and Maya doesn’t wear a hijab. It actually would have even been interesting to talk about the mosque being attacked as a hate crime, but they don’t go so they wouldn’t know.
I did enjoy the portrayal of Indian culture though. If you are looking for a book that includes a character that is Indian and speaks a lot about that part of her culture, this would definitely be the book for you. It talks about everything from the food to the weddings. But the Muslim culture is barely even mentioned in this novel.
Overall, this novel was pretty average for me. If the family had been portrayed in a more positive light, and Maya had been a bit more responsible, I think that I would have liked it more. Instead, I was reading a book about a fairly immature 17-year-old girl who “hates” her family, and wants to become a filmmaker. The only thing I could truly recommend it for would be the accurate portrayal of how hate affects America, and Indian culture. That’s if you can get through the scenes with Maya that will undoubtedly irritate you.
Overal Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars