Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Boy vs Girl by Na'ima B Robert


Farhana swallowed and reached for the hijab. But then she saw with absolute clarity the weird looks from the other girls at school, and the smirks from the guys. Did she dare? And then there was Malik... What should she do about him? Faraz was thinking about Skrooz and the lads. Soon he would finally have the respect of the other kids at school. But at what price? He heard Skrooz's voice, sharp as a switchblade: "This thing is powerful, blud. But you have to earn it, see? Just a few more errands for me..." They're twins, born 6 minutes apart. Both are in turmooil and both have life-changing choices to make, against the peaceful backdrop of Ramadan. Do Farhana and Faraz have enough courage to do the right thing? And can they help each other - or will one of them draw the other towards catastrophe?

I "discovered" Na'ima B Robert via Keren David (author of When I was Joe and Almost Ture) .  I knew I had to read Boy vs Girl and was lucky enough to be sent a copy.  I read it during the month of Ramadan, which is also the time during which the story takes place.   I was particularly aware of what Farhana and Faraz were going through as I work with two Muslimsso I could identify in one aspect of the characters' lives by observing my work colleagues abstaining from food for the duration of the day.

I'm not a particularly religious person yet Na'ima B Robert's novel drew me in to such an extent where I understood the concepts of her characters' religion and the internal struggle they face when it comes to making various choices within themselves and how those choices are reflected to the outside world.  

Before I get to deep and you fall asleep, Boy vs Girl is such an interesting novel.  It is about family, heritage, religion but mostly it is about choices and trust. It is an intelligent modern novel that really hit me hard when it showed me teens in situations I recognise from being a teen, but added to that are the (more) strict religious aspects of their daily lives and the importance of family in this instance.  The sense of community the novel portrays is both endearing as well as scary.  There is a luxuriousness to the descriptions of family meals and spending time together that is so exotic that you can close your eyes and smell the spices.

The synopsis gives an adequate description of what happens within the story and anything more will be spoilery and to be honest, it is such a great book, I would recommend it to be read by as many people as possible.  For its story and its heart, Boy vs Girl is one of the most difficult stories I have read because it has taught me a lot about the way I was brought up to perceive the world.

You can tell that the author has put so much of her heart into the novel and her characters.  Their dialogue and language rings true, as does the way they act around each other and towards their friends and family.  This unexpected little book is a true gem and I hope it gets a wide audience.  I'd recommend Boy vs Girl to the upper ranges of our Under 14's Only readers, along with some parents.  It makes for very interesting reading.

I've not been able to find a website for the author, but find the Francis Lincoln website here.

I thought I'd add these other reviews for Boy Vs Girl too, to show that it's not just me who is smitten with the books.

From Fluttering Butterflies

From Keren David's Website


Michelle Fluttering Butterflies said...

Oh thanks for the link to my review. I did love this one. It was so different from what I'd normally read, but it also drew me in to a surprising extent.

I am glad to see other people reading and loving this one.

Ms. Yingling said...

This author's From Somalia with Love is very popular with the girls in my school, since we have several girls from Somalia. Sadly, Boy vs. Girl doesn't seem to be available in the US. I'll keep looking, though. Thanks for the review.

Unknown said...

Hi everyone,
I read this review because it was quoted on the press releaseof my new book - I didn't even know it existed! But I am very, very pleased with this lovely review! Will repost.

Ms Yingling, Boy vs Girl is out this Spring in the US so please look out for it. Email me on naimabrobert@gmail.com if you have trouble locating it.

Thanks a million everyone :)