Please bear with me during this review. I wanted to like this book so much but in the end it just did not work for me.
Lulu is a biracial Arab-American Muslim teenager going through Ramadan. At the beginning of the book she starts her fasting for the month. While Lulu isn’t a strictly religious Muslim, she does participate in a lot of the customs. She also does like to hook up with boys, party, and drink. The way she did all of those things and how often she did them felt shocking to me. I know it shouldn’t but it did. Maybe things were just different when I was a teenager because I didn’t hook up with boys that often or at all. I did the partying and drinking but it was a rare occurrence for me. And she did all of this while fasting. I’m not a subject matter expert but the drinking did not seem like the best idea since she was only allowed to eat after the sun went down, which equated to one large meal a day. At the same time I’m saying I found some of Lulu’s behavior a bit shocking, I appreciate the author’s candor and honesty. She didn’t shy away from speaking the truth and I appreciate that.
In the same breath, I openly admit that I did not like Lulu as a character. I felt she was a mean, spoiled, ungrateful brat of a girl who was mean for no reason. I get that there was supposed to be a level of unlikeablity to her character but it felt over the top. She was always trash talking, always bullying, always getting away with murder even with her hands covered in blood and the murder weapon in her hand. I had no choice but not like her. And don’t get me started on how she talked to her parents. So disrespectful and they took it! I know that some parents feel their child can do no wrong but come on! She was a bitch to everyone she met. She called them names, slut shammed girls, and talked behind everyone’s back. Not once did Lulu have a moment of self-reflection or a reality check that woke her up to see the error of her ways. She was cruel and rude to everyone simply because people never told her she couldn’t. Nobody told her No.
While I did not like Lulu, one element of this story I did like was the focus on female friendship. I am a huge advocate of females (and everyone, really) having a strong circle of friends. I believe it is very healthy and important. That being said, I don’t understand how Lulu and her group of friends actually stayed friends. They were always calling each other hateful names, talking trash about the other, and they did not feel like they liked each other at all. I was puzzled on that front.
Here is the final point I will make about why I struggled with this book: I failed to figure out the actual plot of the story. This story read like a “Here is what happened during this time in Lulu’s life during Ramadan” narrative. I felt like I was reading a long story where absolutely nothing of importance happened. I kept waiting for some type of controversy or event to take place that put Lulu on a mission-type quest to figure out but it just did not happen. There were many times I would finish well-written lengthy paragraphs that talked about absolutely nothing. So many mundane things were talked about instead – what they ate for lunch, how they picked out their halloween costumes, how they gave each other manicures and braided hair. Not any of this contributed to the overall story.
I’m not sad I read this story but it was absolutely not what I was expecting. When I read that this was supposed to be about friendship and the importance of friendship, I was completely on board. In good faith I cannot say this was a great story. I did like how it gave a little more insight into a Muslim Arab-American family during Ramadan but even that insight was few and far between. I wish it would have focused more on the culture and traditions instead of teenage girls trashing talking everyone and being nasty for no reason.