Monday, October 1, 2007

Review: Randa Abdel-Fattah - Does My Head Look Big in This / 10 Things I Hate About Me

I've been interested in reading "Does my head look big in this" for a while. The catchy title alone is definately a draw point, plus it was getting a fair amount of media attention. As it turns out, I read Randa Abdel-Fattah's second book, "Ten things I hate about me" first, so I'll talk about that first.

The book begins with a class of kids just come back from school holidays, talking about the race riots. This leaves you with no illusions of what kind of book you're about to read. It's obviously going to be about Issue's. This continues throughout the book, the plot is incredibly linear, and prediticlable. The love intrest is introduced on pg 9, and it is obvious from the onset that's what he is. The secret identity character also has an element of not-so-secret.

The saving grace of this book is it's characters. Even though some of them feel like they are there only to illuminate certain points, the main character Jamilah and her family are still interesting. Randa Abdel-Fattah is obviously writing what she knows, and it shows, it's a great insight into a world that I know nothing about, which is a great thing to get out of any book.

Her first book, "Does my head look big in this" does that even better. The predictable plot of "ten things i hate about me" are not an issue here, mostly because there isn't really that much of a plot. The book is much more character driven, and feels less like it's trying to make a stand about an issue, instead it is genuinely trying to show us what life is like for a Muslim girl living in melbourne. The book opens with Amal's voice very strong and powerful, and the whole way through we have a really clear sense of the character, and what motivates her.

The other characters in the book come through clearly as well. While it still has the 'non-sterotype' representation probelm of "ten things i hate about me' as well as resuing some of those personality types, the two pairs of best friends mechanic actually works really well, especially since they all have their own problems, it really emphasizes that no-one is perfect, even the blond georgeous girl doesn't see how good things are for her.

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