Author: Tanaz Bhathena
Release Date: February 27, 2018
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers
Format: paperback ARC
Pages: 384 pages
Source: Raincoast Books
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Summary: A timeless exploration of high-stakes romance, self-discovery, and the lengths we go to love and be loved.
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. (Goodreads)
*I received an advance copy of this book from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion.*
ONE OF MY MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF THE YEAR AND I’VE READ IT YAAAAASSS. I was so hoping this one would live up to my expectations and that it did. There were so many things I loved about this book. In a time where reading books from start to finish has been a struggle even when I’m enjoying the book, I still managed to absolutely fly through A Girl Like That.
The first thing that really grabbed me about the book was the multi-POV set up of the story. It was really refreshing seeing the events from different sides and getting to read different voices as the novel went along. It kept things fresh because it wasn’t always the same tone, language, etc. the whole way through. It also provides a unique look at how all the events in the story play out and gives small details that may otherwise have been missed had we just been given one narrator. It tied all the strings together from each thread of what happened beautifully and I think this set up is part of what helped me dash through the book so freakin’ quick.
I also really loved the characters. I was interested in the complexities of them, even if it was someone I wasn’t so fond of. The struggles with personal ideals, religious norms, family expectations, and fitting in at school are all easy to relate to for teens (or even older readers *cough* me *cough*). Figuring out who you are is never easy and seeing how each character handles this and develops is great. I also love how the culture of not only individual families but also the cities they live in are infused into the story and add depth to the characters’ lives as well. Not being someone from any of the groups represented in the story, I can’t comment on the accuracy of any of the details but I’m SO glad to see another diverse story take off. I can’t wait for kids to see characters that reflect themselves in the pages of a great story. I found myself a little confused at times because I would get so caught up in one character’s POV and forget some of the other cast once the POV switched over but I don’t think that was an issue of the structure I think it was a problem with my attention span (there a lots of players in this cast so make sure to stay alert while reading…aka don’t be like me and try to keep up with the story on the way home after working until 5am LOL!)
Bhathena also tackles some topics that are major topics in the lives of teens everywhere like dating and physical romance, parental expectations, society’s expectations, and the pressure to be a certain way around your friends and another way in public or around your elders. I love having these in books for teens to see characters working through because as much as well all pretend, nobody actually has that stuff figured out. I’m in my 20s and still haven’t figured out all of that to be totally honest. Each character reacts differently to the pressures and has their own ideas about what is right and what is not and I think it’s a great way for young adults to be encouraged to puzzle out their own thoughts on things. I love fluffy contemporaries as much as the next bookworm but I also like tackling the tough stuff and not glossing past it…even though sometimes I think we’d rather forget we have to deal with it. (#guilty)
Overall, A Girl LIke That was a great story that was told in an incredibly interesting way. Having so many points of view play into the story wove things together in a way that no single- or dual-POV narration could have. The novel dealt with many of the tough topics teens face growing up today and sprinkled in the new technology that is making these waters even harder to navigate. Finally, this is another breath of diversity publishing so desperately needs; I hope this can be the book puts the smile on the faces of many teens finally seeing themselves on a cover and as the leads of YA novel!
Tanaz Bhathen was kind enough to answer a question I sent in for this blog tour! If my obsession with the POVs wasn’t evident enough, my question also involved them:
What was the most difficult part of writing a multi-POV story?
Making each voice appropriately distinct. (I’m still not sure I succeeded at this.) Also, some characters (like Farhan) were really challenging to write.
Strangely, writing multi-POV helped me tons during the drafting stages of the book. When one character’s voice got boring or didn’t work for a particular scene, I’d let another voice take over. In its first iteration, this novel had seven different POVs (which was, admittedly, overwhelming for my readers) and I eventually pared them down to four.
Thank you, Tanaz, for answering my question! I definitely think you did a great job giving them each their own voice and my easily-distracted brain is glad you pared it down to four :p