Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah (UK version) 2007
IQ "I wish I could talk in capital letters at school. Use exclamation marks and highlighter pens on all my sentences. Stand out bold, italicized, and underlined. At the moment I'm a rarely used font in a microscopic size with no shading of emphasis." Jamilah pg. 92
Jamilah (I will be referring to Jamie/Jamilah as Jamilah throughout the rest of the review) hates ten things about herself, they include her attraction to a guy who is a popular jerk, her "boring looks" and the fact that she hypothetically can't get a pilot's license or own a fertilizer without being blacklisted due to her Muslim Lebanese background. Not to mention she hates all the other stereotypes people have about Lebanese Muslims (to be perfectly honest I don't think many people know the difference between a Lebanese Muslim and an Iraqi Muslim so she should just say Muslims in general or Middle Eastern people), including that they all work for Osama Bin Laden and ride camels in the desert, etc. To avoid these stereotypes, Jamilah gives herself a makeover. She becomes Jamie, by dying her hair blonde and wearing blue contact lens. No one at her school knows she's a Lebanese Muslim and she intends to keep it that way. She can't handle the jokes and assumptions people make and she doesn't want sympathy for her strict father who insists she is home by sunset. But sooner or later her two worlds are going to collide.
With this second novel Randa Abdel-Fattah has become one of my favorite authors (thus the long review). I adored Does My Head Look Big in This? and her second novel did not disappoint. I do have one compliant though: the main character's romance interests. The situation is basically the exact same thing for both books and that annoyed me. *SPOILER Discussion (highlight to read) The author should just remove romantic obstacles since she clearly does not want her main characters to end up with nice guys. I understand that this happens in real life, but I think that the author should have switched it up from her first book instead of having similar reasons as to why her main character could not go out with the cute and sweet guy. I loved Timothy! So I was really disappointed with that ending. I can also understand people's complaints that these books are too preachy, the author throws a lot of facts about Muslim and Middle Eastern culture into the story and while it doesn't always flow, I like it. I think that these books are crucial in helping teenagers understand a culture that is so foreign to them and viewed so negatively, they highlight the positive of Middle Eastern/Muslim culture and hopefully will help stereotypes deteriorate. I do think some of the sub plots are predictable (you've been warned).
All that being said, the most endearing quality of the books is the humor. Jamilah's voice is fresh and quite dramatic, she does not hesitate to poke fun at herself (though only in private) and she is wonderfully sarcastic. Her family is eccentric as well and at times the reader will pity Jamilah due to how strict her single parent father is (her mother died of a heart attack when Jamilah was nine) but you will snap out of it because Jamilah does not want pity and the author prevents Jamilah or the reader from throwing a pity party by keeping you in stiches. Jamilah's family is unique to say the least. To quote Jamilah's father (talking about his children) "One thinks she's going to save the world by protesting about anything and everything and the other has the intelligence of a squashed falafel. And my Jamilah? All she does is watch this OP or OC rubbish programme, or whatever it is called, and dye her hair yellow." (pg. 24, I have no idea what a falafel is). Her older sister Shereen is twenty two and an activist. She wears the hijab (Jamilah does not) but she sews very interesting patterns on them, ranging from peace slogans to things like a ying and yang symbol or expressions such as "Don't go Burning Your Retina On My Account". She is quite a character, I loved her spirit and how she so fiercely believed in all her causes and she is the peacemaker of the family. Jamilah's brother Bilal is a high school drop out, an excellent mechanic and quite popular with the ladies. He goes to clubs, drinks and is always on the verge of giving his father a heart attack. He is the sweetest and most entertaining of older brothers. I don't want to talk about all the other characters but this book also has a Muslim Lebanese rap group and witty dialogue (or "burns". I'm not sure if they say that in Australia) between Peter and Timothy that is hilarious. Well it's witty on Timothy's part, Peter is an idiot.
Ten Things I Hate About Me will keep you laughing at the antics of Jamilah's family, friends and acquaintances. Her struggle to fit in at school and her decision to assimilate by completely ignoring her Muslim Lebanese culture is heartbreaking and a redeeming quality of the book is watching her grow up and become more comfortable with herself. The oddball characters keep this story from being weighed down with facts about Muslim Lebanese culture, but even these facts add value to the story and will be welcomed by many. Just ignore the romance aspect of it because it's upsetting ;) To top it all off, it's a lot of fun learning about Australian culture indirectly and reading the slang. The story has some fairly predictable moments so keep that in mind and read it for the humor, Australian and Lebanese Muslim content!
Disclosure: Received from Book Fairy #3 (my only UK Book Fairy) aka Kaz Mahoney. Thank you so much!
PS I have the UK version which was published in 2007 but the book was first published in Australia (where the author is from) in 2006, and it was published in the U.S. in 2010. The two covers are different, and the UK one has "Australian Jamie" on the front and "Muslim Lebanese Jamilah" on the back (which you can't see in this post).
PPSS (or whatever it is) Two more humorous tidbits that I must share;
Peter (talking to Timothy about who he can take to the school dance) "I don't think even a fat chick would lower her standards for you."
Timothy: "Really? Then why did your mum say yes?"
Peter: "You piece of s**t. Don't even go there."
Timothy: "I don't like going to a lot of places, Peter, but you're the one handing out the invitations." (pg. 279) BURN!
Bilal (talking about nightclubs) "'It's funk night too.' He starts singing one of his favorite songs.
'Bilal! Do not swear in this house!' my dad yells. [...]
'F-U-N-K,' Bilal says slowly and clearly."
Throwback Thursday is a meme I originally credited to Tashi at Taste Life Twice. But I have learned that an earlier version is hosted by Take Me Away. Since Tashi is no longer blogging :( I will begin crediting this meme to Take Me Away only. Same purpose though :)