A spunky 13-year-old girl challenges the sexist laws of another country in this middle-grade novel of girl power and social justice.
Maddie is on vacation in the Bahamas when she first meets Sayara. They have several things in common: they’re the same age; they both find their little brothers annoying; and they both have doting nannies. Their friendship is cut short, though, when Sayara must return to the unnamed kingdom where she lives, because her beloved cousin Themi has been arrested for driving while female. Maddie is incensed at this and a host of other unfair laws that Sayara must deal with. She vows to go to any lengths to help her friend—even if it means using her mother’s airline miles to book a ticket to the kingdom. On her flight, she meets Alisha, a native of the kingdom who left because of the oppressive societal strictures. She lends Maddie a garment called a “tent,” which all women are required to wear. When Maddie arrives at the kingdom, the “FP,” or Faith Police, are angry that she doesn’t have a man accompanying her; Alisha’s husband swoops in to help, and the family takes Maddie in. Soon her mission to help Sayara is revealed, and despite the risks, Alisha and her family agree to help. Overall, Maddie is an enjoyable and bright first-person narrator with a voice that’s imbued with all the attitude and passion of an authentic teenage girl. It’s also a pleasure to encounter the many grown-ups in her life who inspire her, from her independent Aunt AK (“I’ve always wanted to be like her,” Maddie says. “She’s not only pretty on the outside, but really kind on the inside”) to her forgiving father and Alisha’s wise parents. Some of the dialogue about the injustices in the kingdom is heavy-handed; for example, Themi’s impassioned speech about the unfair laws goes on for more than five pages. But despite the unsubtle messaging, the escalating drama and Maddie’s energetic narration will keep readers turning pages.
A mostly engaging story of sticking up for one’s own beliefs, aimed at young readers interested in questions of social justice.