Thursday, August 12, 2010

Skunk Girl Proves That Standing Out Isn't Always Bad

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Standing out in high school should be avoided at all cost. Unless it's the football-hero/beauty-queen kind of standing out. Which it isn't. Not in 15-year-old Nina Kahn's case, anyway. Her freak status comes by way of her skin color (brown), her religion (Islam), and her parents (ultra traditional). Some call her exotic. And she is, but not in a cool-accent-European-good-looks kind of way. "I am exotic," explains Nina, "in the same way Chinese people eating dog is exotic - a bad way" (27). As the only Pakistani Muslim girl at her high school, Nina's strange customs stand way out. No one else is forbidden to attend parties, be alone with a guy, or sleep over at their friends' houses. Only Nina.

Since there's no way she'll ever have any kind of social life, Nina focuses on her studies. It's the only way to distract herself from everything she's missing. Besides, getting into an Ivy League school means scoring big on the "unnofficial Pakistani prestige point system" and boy, does her status ever need a boost. Still, she can't help but long for the life her friends are living. If only she were a white girl, she'd be able to sip beer at all the cool parties, hang out with her gal pals outside of school, and maybe even have a chance with popular Asher Richelli. She might as well be grounded for life for all the freedom she currently enjoys. As much as she wants to be a good Pakistani Muslim, Nina doesn't want to endure this kind of misery for one second longer, let alone a lifetime.

When Allah grants her fondest wish and Asher actually starts paying attention to her, Nina must face a crisis of conscious and culture. Does she dare encourage Asher? Can she hide their burgeoning relationship from her watchful parents? Is it possible to remain a good Pakistani Muslim with a million hormones storming through her body? Is a strict Muslim life really wants for herself or is it time to forge her own path? While everyone around her is busy experiencing life, Nina must choose whether to remain a bystander or join the crowd. It's a decision that could change everything for Nina. Absolutely everything.

Anyone who's ever been embarrassed by their differences (and who hasn't?) can relate to Nina's plight in Sheba Karim's Skunk Girl. Nina's a spunky, compelling narrator whose voice rings with authenticity. It's impossible not to root for this likeable heroine. While I felt Nina's discomfort over her family's differences, I couldn't help being fascinated by Karim's depictions of Pakistani/Muslim food, traditions, and philosophies. She discusses the culture respectively, while still allowing Nina to criticize it in a realistic, teenage-y manner. I had a few issues with the rest of the story, but I particularly liked Skunk Girl's finale. Predictable? Maybe. Perfect? Definitely. This isn't the most original tale in the world - still, it stands out as an honest, sensitive portrayal of one girl's desperate search for herself. I did mention that standing out isn't always bad, right? In this case it's good, very good.

Readalikes: reminded me a lot of Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger and a little of Taken By Storm by Angela Morrison)

Grade: B+

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for mild language, underrage drinking/partying, and sexual content (nothing graphic, just a lot of references to teenagers having sex)

To the FTC, with love: I bought Skunk Girl from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make book blogging. Ha ha.

3 comments:

  1. I really thin that I'll enjoy this one.

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  2. I don't know why people feel so bad about being different. I really can't relate well to characters which 'hate their parents' and 'blame their ethnicity.'

    Still it sounds pretty awesome :D

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  3. Here we have a funny account of what we can call a perfect teenage life. Pun intended, pubic hair,parents'rules and a secret crush make up for perfect ingredients of a teenage girl's life. Sheba karim has penned her debut novel- the skunk girl in a crisp manner, making it sure that the readers dont pass it off as another chiclet book. The book is witty and has some amazingly hilarious moments. thumbs up Sheba!

    ReplyDelete

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