by Amra Pajalic
Review by Alana Orsulic
Sabiha (Sammie) is fifteen and having a bit of an identity crisis. Her grandfather is back in her life and suddenly her mother expects Sammie to be a model Bosnian daughter, complete with attending metjef (Islamic classes). Meanwhile, her charismatic cousin Adnan - who's extremely popular with the girls at Sammie's school - seems to be able to get away with anything. Also, Sammie has fallen out with her old friend Kathleen. She starts hanging around with nerds Jesse and Brian, sure that something more will develop between her and Brian, despite the warnings of Dina, another Bosnian-Muslim girl at school. But Dina has secrets of her own, and Sammie realises that maybe they can help each other...
This is a wonderful high-school based story set in the suburbs of Melbourne and filled with crushes, friendship troubles, teen identity crises and power struggles with parents and peers. There is also a focus on growing up with more than one culture. In short, it contains everything I love to read about. I absolutely loved this book.
I found it very easy to relate to Sammie. She is a fantastic character - strong-willed but not superhuman. All she wants is to get on with her life; all she gets is pressure at home and at school. Sammie hasn't had a conventional upbringing as it is, and when the definition of 'good daughter' changes for her almost overnight, it's not easy to deal with. This gives an original twist to the exploration of mixed culture in coming-of-age fiction. Dina and Adnan's stories tie in with Sammie's and complement her cross-cultural issues. Jesse and Brian are also wonderful, well-rounded characters. It's fascinating to see Sammie's friendships change and develop, and I adored the way some of Sammie's new relationships were based on books and reading.