High school senior Maya Aziz works up the courage to tell her parents that she’s gotten into the film school of her dreams in New York City, but their expectations combined with anti-Muslim backlash from a terror attack threaten to derail her dream.
Maya, the only brown girl in her school with the only immigrant parents, loves parts of her Indian culture but blames everything she thinks she can’t have on her cultural constraints and on the fact that she’s different. Time is running out to break the news to her parents that her filmmaking is more than just a hobby. Meanwhile, two potential love interests command her attention. Her matchmaking parents like Kareem, an intriguing young Indian man Maya meets and dates, while Phil, a white classmate who’s been her longtime crush, remains a secret from her parents. Interspersed with Maya’s intimate first-person account are brief, cinematic interludes tracking a disturbed young man who commits a terror attack. First reports blame someone who shares Maya’s last name, and the backlash they suffer leads her parents to restrict Maya’s options. Maya is not especially religious, but she is forced to grapple with her Muslim identity as bullying takes a dangerous turn. Her feelings of entrapment within her parents’ dreams are laid on thick, and Maya herself notes a clichéd moment or two in her story, but the core relationships are authentic and memorable, and the conclusion is satisfying.
A well-crafted plot with interesting revelations about living as a second-generation Muslim-American teen in today’s climate. (Fiction. 13-18)