By Sheba Karim
Set in a small town of New York, the story revolves around Nina Khan and her life at her high school – Deer Hook High. As if being culturally different wasn’t enough, she is expected to follow and uphold the image set by her “perfect” older sister. It shows Nina’s struggle (with her parent and friends) to fit in.
High school is amongst the most difficult time of a youngster’s life. And the burden of “cultural differences” and “sibling comparison” can make it worse. Nina’s elder sister is like the ideal daughter of any family. Good with her academics as well as the upholder of family values.
Nina has two BFF who’ve stuck with her through thick-n-thin. Nina Khan belongs to a Muslim American family and she is prohibited from dating and attending parties. So while her BFF go around having fun, she is expected to sit at home and study.
It is a strict “No No” for Nina when it comes to dating. So when a new (hot) Italian guy, Asher, joins high school and Nina falls “head over heels” for him, she has no idea how to ask him out.
Oh life isn’t a smooth one for Nina. Traumatized with her facial hair, she feels more humiliated when Asher catches a glimpse of the dark line of hair starting from the nape of her neck running down the middle of her back (like a skunk stripe). The thought of Asher dating someone else because of her shortcomings (appearance) breaks her heart.
She plans to sneak out one night to attend a party and met Asher. But how her mind controls her actions makes up for a great read.
Nina is caught between two worlds. Her traditionalist parents who want her to follow their beliefs and customs and her friends who want her to let lose sometimes and enjoy life and their growing up years. Pretty much realistic situations for any teenager. She doesn’t want her parents to control or ruin her life but she cannot be rebellious. Her family is nice and kind and a bunch of intelligent lot. But they feel Nina is getting more “Americanized”. Towards the end, she comes to realize and appreciate her cultural heritage and her parents concern about keeping her safe and protected.
The story, I feel, was a bit different. Teenagers and I guess most adults would be able to relate to it. The character of Nina is very likable. I thought she would rebel and throw tantrums and be a brat. But no sir. She doesn’t do any of that. Until the end that is. There are a lot of relatable instances throughout the book. The story is heartfelt; the writing is tight; the pace is good; and the plot is quite gripping. Ample of humor and thought provoking scenarios keep you hooked.