Thursday, December 21, 2017

Book review: I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan


Title: I Am Thunder
Author: Muhammad Khan
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Publication date: 25th January 2018
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Source: Review copy from the publisher through NetGalley

Description: Fifteen-year-old Muzna Saleem is passionate about writing and dreams of becoming a novelist. There’s just one problem - her super-controlling parents have already planned her life out for her: Step 1) Get educated. Step 2) Qualify as a doctor. Step 3) Marry a cousin from Pakistan. Oh, and boyfriends are totally haram. No one is more surprised than humble Muzna when high school hottie, Arif Malik, takes an interest in her. But Arif and his brother are angry at the West for demonizing Islam and hiding a terrible secret. As Arif begins to lead Muzna down a dark path, she faces a terrible choice: keep quiet and betray her beliefs, or speak up and betray her heart? I Am Thunder is the debut novel from stunning YA voice, Muhammad Khan, which questions how far you'll go to stand up for what you believe.

My thoughts: I heard about this book when the publication deal was announced in The Bookseller magazine, and thought it would be very interesting to read this sort of book written by someone who is actually Muslim. The book begins with Muzna as a 13 year old, and it introduces what life is like for her. Her parents already have high expectations for her and are determined that she'll be a doctor one day. They disprove of her friend who is becoming more interested in boys, and who they believe is leading Muzna astray from being a good, dutiful daughter. While I liked this section of the book in that it set up the family, their expectations, as introduces some of the racism that the whole family faces in everyday occurances, Muzna herself annoyed me quite a bit - she makes some very silly choices and I was quite skeptical that in this day & age any teenager would be that ignorant.

The story then jumps forward to Muzna when she's about 16 (if I remember correctly). She moves to a new school, and it's the opportunity of a fresh start. I loved the supportive English teacher, and how he tries to encourage Muzna, and handle the anger and racism amongst his class. You could definitely tell in the classroom scenes that the author Muhammad Khan has worked as a teacher in the past.

I thought that the slow steps Muzna is lead down towards extremist views were quite believable. It was done in small enough increments that you could see why she was agreeing to Arif's suggestions and going along with his view of Islam. There were times again where I wanted to shake her because she couldn't see that teachers and friends were genuinely concerned about her and wanted to help her, and that she'd drastically changed from who she had been before she met him.

I found I Am Thunder to be a really interesting book giving a believable look at how young women can be radicalised. It was also very educational for me to read another book about someone from a Muslim & Pakistani background, as I really don't know as much about the culture as I should. That said, the book wasn't quite as interesting or gripping as I had hoped. Taking that into account, I'm giving it 6/10.

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