All my life I have devoured mystery novels–the genre is like air to me. I love stepping into the shoes of the detective, tracking down clues, making connections and trying to solve the mystery before I get to the end (for the record, I have an excellent track record–very few endings surprise me anymore!). Ishara Deen’s debut, God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems,is a worthy addition to the genre.
Asiya Haque just wants to live her life without being constantly reminded that God might smite her for wanting what she wants. As a minor act of rebellion, she goes for a walk with her crush, Michael, but even that becomes a giant mess when they stumble across a dead body. When Michael becomes the main suspect, and asks for Asiya’s help, she must risk a whole lot of social disapproval and a bit of godly smiting to get him off the hook.
Let me just start by saying that this is one of the most entertaining books I’ve read recently! It’s humourous and full of twists that keep the pages turning. It is well plotted and perfectly paced.
I love that the author has used Bangla and Hindi words. They don’t get in the way of the narrative, but they add a layer of familiarity that makes the reading experience that much more delightful. And it’s not just the use of non-English words, but also the use of English words the way they are used by some South Asian communities, for example, the use of “healthy” as a euphemism for overweight. It is little flourishes like these that had me chuckling and chortling.
It is this cultural connection that makes the book stand apart. It not only tackles Islamophobia head on, but also explores the dilemma of reconciling one’s religious beliefs and practices with the demands of a social milieu in which they are misunderstood and mocked. It raises questions of what religion and tradition are, and whether we should “go by the book” or understand the spirit of what the book says and live accordingly. If this makes the book sound too heavy–it is not. I admire how Ishara Deen has used humour to explore these issues. Many immigrants (especially South Asian) will surely find something to relate to.
The author must also be applauded for the way she has written the characters. It would have been too easy for them to become stereotypical, but she imbues them with life and personality. They are certainly not stock characters, though there is a familiarity that readers will appreciate. Through them Ishara Deen paints a very realistic picture of the familial and social lives of South Asian and/or Muslim teenagers.
There is no cliffhanger ending, but there is enough left unresolved to make the reader wait eagerly for the next book in the series. Three cheers for Asiya Haque, and may she have many many more adventures!
FTC disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for this honest review.