A girl like that

Tanaz Bhathena

Book - 2018

In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, sixteen-year-old half-Hindu/half-Parsi Zarin Wadia is the class troublemaker and top subject for the school rumor blogs, regularly leaving class to smoke cigarettes in cars with boys, but she also desperately wants to grow up and move out of her aunt and uncle's house, perhaps realizing too late that Porus, another non-Muslim Indian who risks deportation but remains devoted to Zarin, could help her escape. When the two end up dead in a car on a highway in Jeddah, it becomes clear she was far more than a "girl like that."

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New York : Farrar Straus Giroux 2018.
Main Author
Tanaz Bhathena (author)
First edition
Physical Description
378 pages ; 22 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

With her debut novel, written in a chorus of voices, Bhathena enters the YA scene with a bang, writing complicated characters with mastery and nuance. Starting with the aftermath of a car accident that kills the two main characters, Zarin and Porus, A Girl like That doesn't begin in a traditional way, but Zarin is not a traditional girl. As she narrates her chapters from a spiritual plane, her sensitivity, rebellious nature, and anger slowly come to the fore. The novel's backdrop, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, emerges with fascinating depth, particularly when Zarin's Gujarati heritage sometimes clashes with Saudi Arabia's culture and strict religious protocols. Cultivating a cast of characters rarely seen in YA, Bhathena does a great job of juggling the five narrators' voices, each of which offers insight into Zarin's character and the events leading up to the death, all while touching on sexual assault and bullying. Bhathena writes her elegant, lyrical sentences with command, and though there's certainly tragedy in Zarin's haunting story, there's plenty of hope, too.--Muhammad, Qurratulayn Copyright 2018 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Bhathena makes an impressive debut with this eye-opening novel about a free-spirited girl in present-day Saudi Arabia. Orphaned at a young age, Zarin Wadia moves in with her uncle and abusive aunt, who constantly shames and beats her. "Some people hide, some people fight to cover up their shame," Zarin explains. "I was always the kind of person who fought." Her treatment at school is even worse-she's shunned for being different (she's Zoroastrian, for starters) and responds by smoking cigarettes and sneaking out with boys. After Zarin gets reacquainted with a childhood friend, Porus, she becomes dependent on him for escape, protection, and the type of gentle affection she has not felt since her mother's death. Readers know from the outset that Zarin and Porus die in a gruesome car accident, and their reflective post-death narratives share space with chapters written from the perspectives of others in their orbits. Bhathena's novel should spur heated discussions about sexist double standards and the ways societies restrict, control, and punish women and girls. Ages 14-up. Agent: Eleanor Jackson, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-When Zarin and her friend Porus die in a car accident in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, everyone, from the religious police to Zarin's classmates, is suspicious-was Porus one of Zarin's many romantic liaisons? Only the deceased teens know the truth, and as their spirits hover above the wreckage, they look back on what led up to this point. Raised by her aunt and uncle, Zarin knows that her origins are a shameful secret to her family ("Illegitimate. Half-Hindu. Gangster's daughter."). Her domineering aunt, who fears seeing Zarin follow the same path as her "loose" mother, keeps a tight grip on the girl, to no avail. After the teen and her family move from Mumbai, India, to Jeddah, she defies convention, dating boys and smoking, but reconnecting with gentle Porus, who's been entranced by Zarin since they met as children. He helps to soften her hard exterior. Bhathena's lithe prose effortlessly wends between past and present. This contemplative novel is primarily narrated by the two young people, both outsiders as non-Muslims and Indians in Saudi Arabia, but the author also incorporates the perspectives of "insiders": Zarin's ex-boyfriend Abdullah; his righteous sister, Mishal, who bullies Zarin for her wayward behavior; and Farhan, the popular but predatory student on whom Zarin nurses a crush. Though these many voices aren't always distinct, together they portray a restrictive society that attempts to subdue every woman, whether a stickler for the rules like Mishal, or a rebel like Zarin. VERDICT A powerful debut; for most collections.-Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review

Two teens originally from Mumbai--troublemaker Zarin (a half-Hindu and -Parsi girl) and Porus (a Parsi boy)--die in a car accident in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Told from their points of view before and after death, together with the narratives of local Muslim teenagers, this novel about the constraints of gender, sexual assault, and family conflicts in a theocratic world is complex and multifaceted. Glos. (c) Copyright 2019. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

When Zarin Wadia dies in a car crash with a boy named Porus, no one in her South Asian community in Jeddah is surprised--what else would you expect from a girl like that?Originally from Mumbai, half-Parsi, half-Hindu Zarin moved in with her aunt and uncle after her mother died. The family relocated to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to escape rumors about Zarin's mother's death, plunging her into a world of abuse and gender-based restrictions against which she rebelled. It was only after Porus, a Parsi friend from Mumbai, moved to Jeddah for work that Zarin began to reconsider her behavior--and her capacity for love. Featuring a diverse cast of Arab and South Asian characters of various classes and faiths, the story is a gripping and nuanced portrait of how teens, both boys and girls, react to patriarchy (the novel contains graphic descriptions of abuse and sexual assault). Bhathena's prose can be stilted, and her excessive use of multiple voices limits both character development and the resolution of some storylines. In addition, the beginning and ending chapters narrated by Zarin's ghost feel disjointed from the otherwise searingly realistic narrative. All in all, though, the book is a fast-paced, fascinating read about a community rarely seen in young adult novels in the West.A refreshingly nuanced narrative about gender in the Middle East. (Romance. 16-adult)

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