Friday, July 2, 2010

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

Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah is one of the most entertaining books I've read this year.  It starts with a simple premise: a young Muslim Palestinian-Australian high school student decides (while watching Friends) that she will begin wearing her hijab full-time.  And from there, Abdel-Fattah takes on all the trials and tribulations of high school: test prep stress, racism, dating, choosing not to date, weight, running away - even pimples.  And not only does she cast these disasters in the appropriate context of "this is the end of my world!" of teenage angst, but she makes it fun and engaging.  As a writer, I was particularly impressed by the delicate use of voice - it's a rich cast of characters, each one unique, and each one revealed with both humanity and interest.

Now, I can say that the book does feel a bit preachy at times - situations are ramped up to high tension, and the solutions are sometimes a bit too perfect.  At the same time, though, this does add to the charm of the book - it offers the kind of good (but still difficult) solutions that we hope for from a modern life that remains as confusing as it is complicated.

This said, I picked up the book as a kind of research - I'm trying to write female characters who have a lot in common with Abdel-Fattah's main character Amal, and I found the book very helpful in learning to capture that lively and intelligent high school female voice without losing the Seventeen or Sweet Valley High sensibilities of a young woman who wants to fit in.

If Does My Head Look Big In This looks good, you may also like these recommendations from Amazon:

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