This book is heavy and complicated and stunning. There are some trigger warnings, which the author includes at the beginning of the book. Some of them are abuse, sexual assault, and prejudice. It doesn’t get detailed or graphic, but you know what is happening, and you go through the journey with the characters as they come to terms with them.
The two main characters, Sal and Noor, are seniors in high school. Sal is an amazing writer who lives with his parents at the motel that they run. His mother is sick and his father is an alcoholic and their motel is not doing well. Noor lives with her uncle after her entire family dies in an earthquake in Pakistan. While she wants to study to be a doctor, her uncle would rather she stay at home and work in his liquor store.
The book switches between each of their points of view and also Sal’s mother, Misbah, who has a few chapters dedicated to her history and perspective. It deals with so many different kinds of loss and the way people deal with it. The writing is fluid between the different points of view, which keeps the pacing steady as you move from one twist to another. Even when things are revealed, they are not tied up neatly.
It’s really easy to get invested in the characters, even to the point of frustration in their choices. While the ending does bring closure, it is messy and complicated which makes it more real. Noor’s character arc is difficult and my favorite as she deals with abuses in her life, including prejudice at school being an immigrant. The way she comes to terms with different aspects in her life in her own time is really beautiful.
I also liked how faith played a part in all of their lives. They spoke about prayer and faith and how it played a part in their culture and family. It was fascinating to learn about the Muslim faith and how imperfect and yet steady it could be in their lives. This coming of age story is definitely a great recommendation for teen and young adult audiences with the trigger warnings that were mentioned.
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