What’s a girl gotta do to get her first bra, her first kiss, her first love?
If you thought the Middle East was all about fatwas and burkhas, think again. Join the fun as Veena, a naive teen from India, bungles her way through adolescence on the island of Bahrain. Laugh out loud as she deals with the intricacies of stubborn bras, crazy parents, racist classmates, first love, and the No-No Club, an abstinence club that degenerates into the Yes-Yes Club.
If you’ve ever struggled with body image issues, ever wanted to be different from what you are, ever wanted a hot guy or girl you couldn’t have, or if you just want a good laugh, this novel is for you, whether you’re nine, ninety, or anywhere in between.
Are teenagers the same everywhere? If that question means ‘do they all have the same insecurities’ then the answer seems to be yes. Veena at fifteen is, in her opinion, woefully inept at anything that doesn’t involve being the smartest student in the class. She doesn’t know how to get the boy she likes to notice her. She is looking for a cure for what she sees as her boy-like figure, and her family could star on ‘Are You the Biggest Bunch of Dysfunctional People in the World’ and easily take home the grand prize. In other words, she’s a typical teenager.
The island of Bahrain is a tossed salad of immigrants looking to find a better life than they had in the country they left behind. Veena’s school is multicultural with students from different parts of the world uniting under one roof, which should be a good thing in a perfect world. Instead, it brings under a microscope the prejudices that still abound over country, morals, skin color and religion. In her world, the Arabs, whites, Indians, Pakistanis and other races did not leave their prejudices behind when they left their native countries. And Veena feels the brunt of that every time she speaks in her Indian accent.
So how can she be a normal teenager? If she likes a boy, she can’t talk to him privately because she could be expelled from school. She can’t have friends over without fearing that her pessimistic mother might drive them to suicide. She can’t even get a bra without her mother having a major meltdown. But, through it all, Veena is still able to experience her very first kiss from the boy who doesn’t care about any of that. All he cares about is her.
Vidya Samson does an excellent job of showing the world that regardless of prejudices and hostilities, a teenager is a teenager. No matter where they are in the world, they’re all looking for answers to some of life’s most basic questions. I thank the author for a review copy and I give the book four stars.
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