Summary (from the publisher):Allie Abraham has it all going for her—she’s a straight-A student, with good friends and a close-knit family, and she’s dating cute, popular, and sweet Wells Henderson. One problem: Wells’s father is Jack Henderson, America’s most famous conservative shock jock…and Allie hasn’t told Wells that her family is Muslim. It’s not like Allie’s religion is a secret, exactly. It’s just that her parents don’t practice and raised her to keep her Islamic heritage to herself. But as Allie witnesses ever-growing Islamophobia in her small town and across the nation, she begins to embrace her faith—studying it, practicing it, and facing hatred and misunderstanding for it. Who is Allie, if she sheds the façade of the “perfect” all-American girl? What does it mean to be a “Good Muslim?” And can a Muslim girl in America ever truly fit in?
My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
It’s safe to say that we’ve all read books that we’d know we love from the get-go. But I think what’s even better than that feeling sometimes is when you pick up a book and it transforms from something you think you’d enjoy to something that you absolutely love. Enter Nadine Jolie Courtney’s upcoming release All-American Muslim Girl, a book that I all of a sudden couldn’t part ways from. This book so would’ve been a binge read for me if my first full draft of my senior English research paper hadn’t been due the same week. Luckily for me, I was still able to eat it up over the course of three sittings.
All-American Muslim Girl follows high school sophomore Allie, who on the outside appears to be your average American girl. She has red hair and a white complexion, a great relationship with her parents, good grades, and a budding relationship with the cutest boy in the school. What most people don’t realize about Allie is that she is Muslim. Since her parents don’t practice and tend to keep Allie away from faith, Allie doesn’t think her secret is too big of a deal. However, as Allie witnesses Islamophobia more and more, including from her boyfriend’s dad, she wants to learn about her faith and finds herself practicing and studying it while trying to understand the hatred and misunderstanding.
I admit that it took me the first seventy pages or so to fully get into All-American Muslim Girl. Allie talks to her mom about what it was like for her when she decided to convert to Islam when she married Allie’s dad and why the two don’t really practice religion. It was Allie’s interest in learning more about her faith that really gets the plot going on. Allie decides to practice and makes many discoveries about her religion, her family, the way people treat her, and most importantly, herself. It’s been a while since I read a book that involved religion so much. It was really refreshing to see Allie transform from someone who feared about outsiders learning about her background to someone who freely practices and has much reverence for her religion.
I’ve read two books (that at least come to mind) that have Muslim protagonists, Tanaz Bhathena’s A Girl Like That and Aminah Mae Safi’s Not the Girls You’re Looking For. A Girl Like That and All-American Muslim Girl aren’t too similar, especially since A Girl Like That takes place in Saudi Arabia and provides an in-depth glimpse at systemic oppression against women. All-American Muslim Girl was everything that I had wanted from Not the Girls You’re Looking For, in that I wish Not the Girls You’re Looking For had further explored the protagonist’s relationship with her culture and religion- Ialso had a major disconnect with the main protagonist, Lulu, and I wasn’t the biggest fan of how she handled her friendships and relationships.
From Allie’s initial conversation with her mom to joining the Muslim Student Association to reconsidering her relationship with Wells, I was instantly hooked and found myself not wanting to part from this book for too long. All-American Muslim Girl truly invites readers to consider how stereotypes and appearance influences not only our judgments about one another, but how such judgments can affect how an individual thinks about themselves and their heritage. I feel like I may be repeating myself, but at the same time, I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed Allie’s embracing of her faith. Her dedication and talks with the girls in her study group taught me about the Muslim faith and broke down many stereotypes surrounding it.
All-American Muslim Girl also focuses on a variety of relationships. Allie’s parents are her best friends, but her immersion into her faith causes some complications between them. While her mother supports Allie’s endeavors, Allie finds herself hiding things from her father, since he has protected Allie partially out of fear that she will experience the same discrimination as he has. Allie also experiences some tension with her boyfriend, Wells. According to her religion, Allie shouldn’t be dating someone, not to mention that said someone’s father is a well-known conservative news reporter. I really appreciated that her relationship with Wells wasn’t at the novel’s forefront. Their relationship helps Allie decide how her religion will influence her everyday decisions. Although Wells also supports Allie, her biggest support comes from the girls in her study group, especially Dua. I absolutely loved Allie and Dua’s love for Kacey Musgraves! Their discussions and debates on the different rules within their religion was super insightful and educational. Her friends’ support really helps Allie grow as a character and into her faith.
Overall, I absolutely loved this own-voices book for its exploration of religion, focus on family and heritage, and self-discovery. I cannot wait for everyone to be able to read All-American Muslim Girl. I look forward to checking out Nadine Jolie Courtney’s other books!
All-American Muslim Girl comes out on November 12, 2019.
This review is based on an advance reader’s edition. By no means did receiving this book for review affect my thoughts and opinions.
Is All-American Muslim Girl on your TBR? Have you read anything by Nadine Jolie Courtney? Share in the comments!