Two teenage girls in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, rebel against a patriarchal culture while struggling to navigate their complex family lives.
In this controlled, male-dominated society, no one escapes the scrutiny of the muttaween (religious police) except for those with power and money. Leena has had neither ever since her lawyer father fell into disgrace for leading protests against the government. Meanwhile, her best friend, Mishail, is the daughter of the minister of the interior, the man whose agency conducts surveillance on all communications in the country. Taking place following the 2011 Arab uprisings, Deracine’s debut novel offers a snapshot of the lives of young Saudi women who are navigating universal concerns including gender roles, sexuality, politics, and fashion. Leena’s rebellion leads her to disguise herself as a man and drive illegally and to sneak off to American gated compounds where the rules are less restrictive. Her relationships to Islam and Saudi culture evolve and mature as she seeks to understand the distinctions between the two. Tossing aside clichés and stereotypes of Saudi women as passive, helpless subjects to be pitied, the story shows teenage girls who take control of their futures by turning the very system that imprisons them against itself.
The fast-paced narrative and unexpected twists make for an engaging yet educational novel with a powerful message about the complexities of being a woman in a man’s world. (Fiction. 13-18)