Oh I love it when the postman brings me a book delivery, even more so when it’s some truly fantastic YA. Macmillan had kindly packaged me up a bundle of reading goodies to get stuck into, one of which will be popping up on here at the beginning of February. We will have an interview with the author herself AND a giveaway – Sara Barnard fans PREPARE!
Keep a look out in the first few weeks of February!
The book I’ve came on to talk about today is the first novel by author Muhammad Khan, and the bookasphere was arumbling with excitement and anticipation well ahead of the publication of ‘I Am Thunder’. Time for me to grab my ‘sharing’ (HA!) pack, open the cover and disappear for a while.
I’ll share how good the book is with you guys but I share my Buttons with NOBODY!
Muzna Saleem is a young teenager when we meet her and burdens are piling high on her school girl shoulders. Facial hair causing constant paranoia, a best friend who helps her access a more popular world in school but who also belittles Muzna’s opinions, and finally her parents applying pressure to be the perfect Pakistani daughter. Muzna is expected to train to be a Doctor, her Ami and Dad waiting to see top marks in maths and science, ignoring their daughters outstanding talent in English class and her dreams of becoming a novelist.
We follow Muzna through a period of serious change in her life. With her dad having to get a new job, a change of home and school is required, her parents feeling some relief at getting their daughter away from the influence of her ‘bad’ friend. Naturally nervous to start at her new school her first few days see her run into a gamut of pupils, some friendly, some so so and some who, well, are down and out racist. Muzna is fully aware of how members of her faith can be viewed and this is something that plays heavy on her mind. A life line is thrown to her when a fellow Muslim student, a gorgeous one at that, takes her under his wing, explaining that the ‘fam’ stand up for each other. Her emotions are quickly whipped up into a storm for him and as their relationship intensifies she is left wondering what is the right and wrong path to take in her life.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, reading it far too quickly as I was completely wrapped up in the life of Muzna. Khan perfectly encapsulates the school and teenage experience, well, as much as I could relate to, being white myself and attending a school that largely had no cultural diversity I cannot even begin to imagine the added pressures of racism and bigotry being piled upon the high octane teenage emotions that course through every body. The push and pull from every side of the arguments for and against religion, how to have the ‘correct’ identity for where you are living, are described vividly, the confusion Muzna faces reads very genuinely and I imagine has no doubt been brought forth from Khans own experience in both school himself, as a pupil and then as a teacher.
I was swept up in how this young woman was going to go forward, what decisions she would make and the ramifications these would have on those around her. I found her to be a realistic role model, not always acting perfectly, but then who does? Muzna made me feel stronger, I can only imagine the wonders she’ll do for young women with similar worries as her.
This book deserves to be read widely, copies being passed from hand to hand, edges becoming battered from over excited readers desperate to find out the ending. It deserves this not only because of its wonderful exploration of what it is like to be seen sometimes as ‘other’ in your own country, to feel you have to constantly explain your independent self against a preconceived idea of being part of some homogenous mass but also because it is a cracking, well paced, addictive piece of fiction. Let the rumble of thunder make you turn your head to this brilliant book.
‘I Am Thunder’ by Muhammad Khan £7.99 (Macmillan)
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