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REBELS BY ACCIDENT

An excellent young-adult novel that is an important and enjoyable read for both teenage girls and any adult wanting to...

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

In her debut novel, journalist Dunn tells an ambitious and winning coming-of-age story about an American teenager born to Egyptian parents.

Being a teenager probably wasn’t a cakewalk for any of us, but when you’re a first generation Egyptian-American living in post-9/11 New York, no one can blame you for having a bit of an identity crisis. Mariam, a strong but lost 15-year-old, clutches to her sole friend, the bright and outspoken Deanna. Deanna struggles with her own issues. She’s from a single-parent home (she has a “sperm donor” for a father) and contends with a facial deformity that doesn’t allow her to smile. At the start of the book, the duo make a rare party appearance that winds up landing them and the rest of their high school class in jail for underage drinking and the presence of marijuana. As a consequence, Mariam’s parents decide to send their daughter to Egypt to live with her sittu (grandmother). And, in the only unrealistic plot point in the book, Deanna’s mother decides to send her along as well. But while Deanna excitedly prepares for their journey by studying travel books and practicing Arabic with Baba (Mariam’s father), Mariam dreads the idea of living with her sittu, whose “iron fist” she grew up fearing. Luckily, her grandmother turns out to be an incredibly warm and interesting woman who teaches Mariam about life and love and to be proud of her ancestry. Though their trip is cut short due to a revolution throughout Egypt, the five-day jaunt is a whirlwind of activity—a trip to the pyramids, ice skating in a mall, a love story for both young women and a brush with the political uprising that both inspires and teaches. The author shines at writing teenagers—no part of how they talk or think feels unfaithful to that delicate stage in life.

An excellent young-adult novel that is an important and enjoyable read for both teenage girls and any adult wanting to understand more about the present-day life of Egyptian Americans. 

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-0985492120

Page Count: 274

Publisher: Alikai Press Inc.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.

The finely drawn characters capture readers’ attention in this debut.

Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is “quirky and odd,” while Finny is “sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him.” But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn’s coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations.

There’s not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn’s head.   (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7782-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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