Title: That Thing We Call a Heart
Author: Sheba Karim
Published: 09 May 2017 | HarperTeen
Date Read: 20 May 2017
Shabnam Qureshi is a funny, imaginative Pakistani-American teen attending a tony private school in suburban New Jersey. When her feisty best friend, Farah, starts wearing the headscarf without even consulting her, it begins to unravel their friendship. After hooking up with the most racist boy in school and telling a huge lie about a tragedy that happened to her family during the Partition of India in 1947, Shabnam is ready for high school to end. She faces a summer of boredom and regret, but she has a plan: Get through the summer. Get to college. Don’t look back. Begin anew.
Everything changes when she meets Jamie, who scores her a job at his aunt’s pie shack, and meets her there every afternoon. Shabnam begins to see Jamie and herself like the rose and the nightingale of classic Urdu poetry, which, according to her father, is the ultimate language of desire. Jamie finds Shabnam fascinating—her curls, her culture, her awkwardness. Shabnam finds herself falling in love, but Farah finds Jamie worrying.
With Farah’s help, Shabnam uncovers the truth about Jamie, about herself, and what really happened during Partition. As she rebuilds her friendship with Farah and grows closer to her parents, Shabnam learns powerful lessons about the importance of love, in all of its forms.
Featuring complex, Muslim-American characters who defy conventional stereotypes and set against a backdrop of Radiohead’s music and the evocative metaphors of Urdu poetry, THAT THING WE CALL A HEART is a honest, moving story of a young woman’s explorations of first love, sexuality, desire, self-worth, her relationship with her parents, the value of friendship, and what it means to be true.
*ARC Kindly provided by HarperTeen thru Edelweiss*
It is rare to find a book with a Muslim lead-character. So I always get excited whenever I encounter one and read it. The Thing We Call a Heart might be the 3rd Muslim book that I’ve read and I’m happy and excited to be given a copy for a review. *wink*
“I had a simple plan. Get through the summer. Go to Penn. Begin anew. Don’t look back.”
Just like it is being rare to find a book with a Muslim lead-character it is also rare for me to find a book that I consider to be totally character-driven and reading The Thing We Calla Heart is one of those rare times.
Shabnam is a complex character. I had a hard time gauging who she really is I begin the story. She’s awkward, self-conscious but intelligent. She came off self-centered for me on most parts of the book and she frustrates the crap out of me most of the time as well but I still liked her – she’s flawed and she’s real.
Farah is Shabnam’s best friend and I like her just as much as I like Shabnam. They did have a bit of a fall-out in the beginning of the story after Farah started wearing a jihab without telling Shabnam but they did manage to work things out between them.
Of course, a love interest paved its way as well into the story into the form of a non-Muslim boy who’s very interested into the Muslim culture named Jamie. I never actually liked Jamie. I’m skeptical about his character from the beginning but it seems to fade whenever he makes or feel Shbnam special but nonetheless all throughout the story, I never liked him.
To say I’m surprised how Shabnam and Jamie’s story went is a complete understatement. I’m not going to go into details on what happened between these two but for me, the right thing happened because it opened a lot more for Shabnam.
It never gets old learning about the Muslim culture and history. I enjoyed reading about Urdu Poetry and learning about The Partition.
I love how different the Shabnam I met at the beginning of the story to the Shabnam on the last page of this book. Overall, this story is all about growing up. Figuring what you wanted in life and trying to understand life itself.
“Though sorrow is life destroying, we cannot escape it, as we have a heart.”