Publication: 5th of February 2019
Reading this book was like taking a breath of fresh air. After I started, I couldn’t stop.
It was also the most emotionally involved I have been in a story for such a long time. From start till the end, I loved every single moment of it.
Maybe it’s because I am a Muslim, teenager, and South East Asian like Melati. That may make me a little biased. But honestly, I really think it’s just that good.
Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Feb 5, 2019
Melati Ahmad looks like your typical movie-going, Beatles-obsessed sixteen-year-old. Unlike most other sixteen-year-olds though, Mel also believes that she harbors a djinninside her, one who threatens her with horrific images of her mother’s death unless she adheres to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping to keep him satisfied.
A trip to the movies after school turns into a nightmare when the city erupts into violent race riots between the Chinese and the Malay. When gangsters come into the theater and hold movie-goers hostage, Mel, a Malay, is saved by a Chinese woman, but has to leave her best friend behind to die.
On their journey through town, Mel sees for herself the devastation caused by the riots. In her village, a neighbor tells her that her mother, a nurse, was called in to help with the many bodies piling up at the hospital. Mel must survive on her own, with the help of a few kind strangers, until she finds her mother. But the djinn in her mind threatens her ability to cope
This book… was just so good.
I started it with the intention of reading a book I probably would enjoy. I didn’t expect to come out of it a wreck of emotions.
The story takes place in 1960’s Malaysia, during the riot races. The tension between the Chinese and Malaysians are heating up and nowhere is safe.
The truth, I am ashamed to admit, is that I was unaware of such events until I read the synopsis for this book. So, this book truly was an eye opener for me.
This was the most important part ,as well as the best part of this book.
Melati’s struggle was just so real and so heartbreaking that sometimes I just had to remind myself to take a break when reading.
“Are you okay?” My eyes fly open. Saf is staring at me, brows furrowed with concern. I feel a sudden urge to tell her, to blurt out everything, all at once. No, Saf, I’m not okay. I haven’t been okay for a long time now. I’m constantly imagining my own mother’s death. I spend all with a demon in my head that only I can see or hear, and anytime I’m not doing that, I’m busy counting and tapping everything in sight just to shut him up. I’m really, really not okay. I’m so far from okay I don’t even remember what okay feels like anymore.”
The thing is, this isn’t something that only people in books go through. It is real. It’s happening everyday to teenagers and adults everywhere. There is no way to put a definite end to it , because in the end it depends on the person. However books bring more awareness to such issues, and the author does just that by giving the reader such a raw look into Melati’s mind.
Being a Muslim teenager myself, especially one that wears the hijab, I have definitely had my share of racism. From people pretending I am invisible and don’t exist, to those who stare like I am an extinct species unearthed, I’ve had it all.
Also add that to the fact that I am Asian. Yeah, I know.
So reading the portrayal of racism in this book truly wasn’t entirely foreign to me. The hatred between the Chinese and Malaysians over the country that they both believe they have the right to live in peacefully , with the latter fighting for their country to belong to them only. The family that takes in Melati to stay with them during the riots were Chinese and their son, Frankie, is angry at the Malaysians for trying to push his people out.
The world is not black and white .People aren’t just good and others aren’t bad.
Sometimes people have been brought up and raised to believe in something and for them to believe otherwise is as if they are betraying themselves and their families, regardless of the morality. Therefore, the author doesn’t categorize each nationality into good and bad, but in some way gives us an insight as to how they may think, or certain events that may have happened to cause their actions.
THIS BOOK HAS GOOD MUSLIM REP!
Do you know how hard is to find YA books about Muslim teens, much less with good rep? Very.
“ Prayer meant asking God for his blessing and his forgiveness. Prayer meant thanking Him for everything he’d given us. And even I knew He’d given us so much.”
One of the things I am most in awe of, is the fact that this is the author’s debut novel. The writing was amazing! I cannot wait to read more of her work in the future.
IS THIS BOOK ON YOUR TBR? ARE YOU PLANNING ON READING IT? PLEASE TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS!!