First of all, the cover of this book is adorable! I love the illustration in this and how bright and playful it is. This book touched on delicate topics in terms of islamophobia, racism, and many more. It’s a vague blurb but really sets the scene and doesn’t build any expectation to be judged upon.
Girl meets boy, ghosts his text messages, then convinces him to help her run for the student union. Just your typical love story with a hijabi twist.
Tara wears hijab even though her parents hate it, and in a swipe right world she’s looking for the ‘will go to the ends of the earth for you’ type of love. Or, she would be, if she hadn’t sworn off boys to focus on getting into med. Besides, what’s wrong with just crushing on the assassins, mages and thieves in the fantasy books she reads?
When a bomb threat on her first day of university throws her together with totally annoying party king and oh-so-entitled politician’s son Alex, things get complicated. Tara needs to decide if she’s happy reading about heroes, or if she’s ready to step up and be one herself.
Thank you to Wake Field Press who sent a paperback copy to review and to AusYaBloggers for the opportunity! In no way does this influence my opinion.
Where to begin with such a complex book? Well, let’s start with our narrator, Tara, who’s a Muslim girl entering her first year of university. The bomb threat doesn’t go well as stereotypes, racial profiling, and ‘first impressions’ are built around Tara and her first week. In this time, she’s made an enemy who called in the bomb threat, Jess. A white privileged girl who is Tara’s motivation and drives into running for Student Union as Jess is too.
Yet with Tara being so cooped up in her work and books, she has no clue on how to campaign herself. That’s where Alex, the love interest of Sunburnt Veils, enters the story and helps Tara. Alongside him is a friend, Sam, who has a particular interest in Tara’s friend, Mitra. The four build a powerful friendship dynamic throughout the story, with occurring highs and lows.
Throughout the novel, we see Tara go through the challenges of a girl wearing a hijab. In one chapter she’s on the verge of ripping it off to not be the centre of attention anymore, but knows that’s what the people want. In this sudden decision, readers see the character development form. Tara building herself up and coming out of her shell. With the help of her outgoing friend, Mitra and support by her side, she flourishes into a driven leader.
The entire book isn’t focused entirely on Tara, we’re introduced slowly in the beginning of Mitra’s background. The closer she gets with Sam, the easier it is to realize she’s gay, and it’s only confirmed when she comes out to Tara. From there Mitra lives with Tara and her mum, afraid of telling her family who aren’t the most supportive parents of the planet.
In the absence of Mitra’s family, we’re exposed a lot to Tara and her relationship with her parents. Her parents haven’t always been supportive of Tara wearing a hijab since in Westernized countries, it’s considered oppression and something for Tara’s parents to be afraid of her wearing it. Personally, I wish the author clarified on the hijab a bit more, especially since it has become such a symbol for Tara. Yes, we’re aware she only embraced Islam because of her late grandmother, but I felt like something was missing and whenever the hijab, or Islam was mentioned, it felt glossed over. Essential, when Tara and Alex become close.
Yet it in a way, it’s breaking down how society has viewed Muslim women. This book empowers females and reveals the hardships they have to encounter for looking different. We’re shown there is a queer community in Muslims and how challenging it is for them too.
The occurring events, especially regarding the campaign, really set the scene. I haven’t read many books set in university, but the author created a way for readers to understand and realize what university is really about. The different type of people you’ll meet along the way, the things you can do, the freedom of speech you have and how strong your voice is for important matters.
Overall, I found this to be an empowering book, touching on various topics. I haven’t spoken about them too much, because you have to read the book! The author really gets the message across to people from all different backgrounds structured by a certain belief system, and in turn, when coming face-to-face with it, are put into positions that aren’t usually touched upon enough in young adult fiction.