Title: God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems
Author: Ishara Deen
Genre: Mystery, YA, Contemporary
Rating: ★★★☆☆ | 2.5 out of 5.0
Asiya Haque didn’t mean to stumble upon a dead body. All she wanted to do was take a walk in the woods with new-boy Michael, her crush. But then they come across a corpse, and Asiya was never supposed to be out in the woods to begin with (let alone with a boy), and so to cover for her Michael, insists that she go, and he’ll call the police after she’s gone.
But that’s before it becomes clear that Michael’s connection with the woman is more than it seems, and soon Michael becomes the prime suspect in the murder of Sue, his social worker, the one contact he had left with his biological family.
DNF’d at 33%, which really does seem to be my curse.
I can’t seem to get into reading books this year. This is a combination of several things, I think: a) a truly astounding burnout b) literally zero free time c) copious amounts of extreme stress stemming largely from schoolwork and clubs and d) the pressure I put on myself to read books, and specifically to read diversely, and produce insightful reviews, so that I don’t really lay back and read mindlessly anymore.
About 20 pages into the book, I was fairly certain this was going to be the book that got me back into reading. By about page 30, I wasn’t so sure anymore, and now that I’m on page 79, I’m just going to stop putting pressure on myself to finish this novel and just write this review and put it down.
I can’t say much about the mystery since I didn’t progress enough into the novel to make comment, but I did initially enjoy the writing. It was very Meg Cabbot/Lauren Myracle, but like, in Canada. Asiya had a very distinct voice, and I liked how blunt and straightforward she is. But past a certain point, it started to grate at me, and I think this is in part that the writing fluctuated in quality a lot, and in part because as you follow Asiya deeper into the novel, she becomes incredibly judgemental and insecure, and that’s not really something I can handle anymore.
I also wasn’t the biggest fan of Asiya’s relationship with her mother. I’ve talked to one of my friends about this in the past, and we had mentioned this trend in fiction where “Dad” as a figure is consistently lionised as the one who “understands” the protagonist, who “encourages” the protagonist, while “Mom” is the stuffy, stifling, traditionalist, strict one.
And this can be true in real life, but I don’t think enough emphasis is ever placed on the fact that these are gendered reactions. Mom is aware of the limits of being a woman in a patriarchy, aware of the restrictions patriarchy places on women, aware that women who step outside the bounds are often looked down on, humiliated, patronised. Dad never has to deal with this, and so of course Dad doesn’t give a shit if Daughter becomes socially notorious, because he never has to consider that survival might come down to your reputation, or who you marry, or what people say of you.
This sort of dynamic was taken almost to an extreme with this novel. Abbu is almost always positioned as the more rational, logical, and even-handed. Abbu almost always takes Asiya’s side against Ma. Ma, on the other hand, is tyrannical and puritanical, always an obstacle, always working against Asiya.
Taken in and of itself within the context of this one novel, I don’t actually think it’s a problem, but it is part of a larger publishing trend that lionises fathers and demonises mothers, which leaves a bad taste in my mouth, particularly as women in general are sort of sidelined in this novel—Asiya’s mother and sister are constant thorns in her side, and her best friend weaves in and out of the narrative. The one truly sympathetic woman, Sue, is dead. And Asiya’s primary motivation, at least where I left off, is Michael.
I don’t know. I think overall many things in this novel were quite decent; they just weren’t to my taste and I’m not in a place where I am particularly interested in sticking it out.