Book Review: Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Does My Head Look Big In This CoverBook: Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Published May 2007 by Orchard Books|360 pages

Where I Got It: borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What It’s About: 

When sixteen-year-old Amal decides to wear the hijab full-time, her entire world changes, all because of a piece of cloth…

Sixteen-year-old Amal makes the decision to start wearing the hijab full- time and everyone has a reaction. Her parents, her teachers, her friends, people on the street. But she stands by her decision to embrace her faith and all that it is, even if it does make her a little different from everyone else.

Can she handle the taunts of “towel head,” the prejudice of her classmates, and still attract the cutest boy in school? Brilliantly funny and poignant, Randa Abdel-Fattah’s debut novel will strike a chord in all teenage readers, no matter what their beliefs.

What I Thought:

I loved this book!  I think this one is another favorite I’ve read so far this year.

It’s such a light-hearted book, and it made the book feel really balanced with everything that Amal had to deal with.  There were several times when I felt really angry at other people because of the things they said or the way they acted, but I also liked how strong her faith was, and how it didn’t waiver.

Like, when Amal was asked to give a speech to give insight into Islam and terrorism, and why they did what they did.  I loved that Amal refused to do it because they’re not representative of Islam.  I also liked her response to the class president.

“You’re Christian, right?

“…Yeah…what’s that got to do with anything?

“Ok, well I’ll give the speech if you give a speech about the Ku Klux Klan.”

“Huh?”

“Yeah, why not?  They were really religious, so obviously what they did was textbook Christianity, right?  And how about those Israeli soldiers bombing Palestinian homes or shooting kids?”

The fact that she’s the only Muslim at her school, and thus the authority on all thing Muslim…sadly, it wasn’t that surprising, but it still made me angry on her behalf.  And the fact that if she’s wearing a hijab, it’s either because her parents are making her do it, or it’s because she’s a religious fanatic.  And the fact that the guy she has a crush on thinks she’s repressed because she believes until waiting until marriage to have sex, or even kiss someone?  Also made me really, incredibly angry at a fictional character.  But at the same time, I felt like that scene was very true to life, and I loved how she strongly she believed in it.

I think some people might find Does My Head Look Big In This? a little preachy, but I honestly didn’t mind that (in this instance) because it’s coming from such a different perspective.  Plus, I didn’t really find the book to be preachy, but I can understand why some people might think that.  And Amal does encounter quite a bit of ignorance and stupid comments and assumptions, and I thought she dealt with it really well.

I was expecting more anti-Islam sentiment, and I’m not sure if it’s something that happens a lot in Australia, or if it was because the book took place not that long after 9/11 (and I’m the first the admit that I’m completely clueless about any impact it had elsewhere in the world), or if it’s really not as bad as I (very wrongly) assumed.

Reading this book, I definitely realized how little I actually know about Islam, and I do wish that she explained the meaning of the hijab.  I know why Amal wears it, but I’m curious if there’s a meaning behind it.  And I also wish we saw her explain some of the tenets of Islam, but the book worked well without it (and I can always read about it on my own).  Towards the end of the book, I did find myself wondering how the story would play out in different parts of the world.

My Rating:

4 stars.  I really liked it, and I thought Amal had a strong voice.  She was funny and someone I could relate to, and this book made me think about some of the perceptions I had Islam.

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