Saturday, 18 April 2009

The Good Daughter / Amra Pajalic

Summary - Fifteen-year-old Sabiha has a lot to deal with: her mother’s mental health issues, her interfering aunt, her mother’s new boyfriend, her live-in grandfather and his chess buddy, not to mention her arrogant cousin Adnan. They all want to marry her off, have her become a strict Muslim and speak Bosnian.

And Sabiha’s friends are not always friendly. She gets bullied by girlfriends and is anxious about boyfriends, when she just wants to fit in. But two boys, Brian and Jesse, become the allies of this fierce and funny girl.

The Good Daughter is a coming-of-age novel written with sensitivity and humour. It confronts head-on the problems of cultural identity in the day-to-day lives of teenagers. Amra Pajalic has a wonderful ear for idiomatic dialogue and the dramatic moment.

Review - Australian author, Amra Pajalic, has debuted with a piece of writing that really challenged me in many ways. On one hand it's a story of a teenage girl deal with her mother's bi-polar disorder, on the another it's about the acceptance of your cultural heritage and on yet another it's about treading the line between naivete and wordliness. All of these storylines rang very true, especially in the reconciling one's identity as an Australian while maintaining strong links to your home country. I was constantly to-ing and fro-ing between the many elements of Sabiha's life that were pressuring her, sympathising in some, angry and frustrated with her in others. I always felt that Pajalic had my attention within her crosshairs as I was reading.

Sabiha is one of the most realistic depictions of the teens that I teach every day. Not just because she was juggling being Muslim whilst maintaining an Australian identity, but she represented many of my friends and their experiences growing up. They haven't necessarily run the gamut of mental disorders, homosexuality, sexuality, friendships, religion and bullying but I can see them relating to Sabiha's struggle to please and yet be herself. I wanted to throttled Sabiha at times but I always understood where she was at and found myself unabashedly involved in her journey.

Pajalic has written a uniquely Australian tale about grappling with teenage-dom. This could be stockstanded YA fare but it isn't. She's depicted a world in all it's glory with a honesty and humour that compelled me. Sabiha's jealousy of a competing girl for her best friend's attention felt a little predictable but makes a left hand turn that completely won over. My one concern with this novel is that the opening chapter is a little exposition heavy with the background of the Bosnian community. While it's important information for the book, I feel that Pajalic inferred enough that it wasn't completely necessary.

Randa Abdel-Fattah (author of 10 Things I Hate About Me) labelled this book "gutsy" and I have to agree. I cannot wait to see what this new author presents to the world next.

Published: 4th May, 2009
Format: Paperback, 314 pages
Publisher: Text Publishing
Origin: Australia
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Amra Pajalic's Official Website


Steph Su said...

I love reading your reviews of Australian authors--well, until they make me long to be in Australia so I can pick up some of these wonderful books! This one sounds fantastic. The premise reminds me a little of Saving Francesca, in a way, and I'm more than willing to pick up any book that has the slightest resemblance to SF.

Elizabeth said...

This sounds like something I'd love to read. I'm interested that the most prominent YA novels about Muslim girls seem to be coming out of Australia.

Angela Ackerman said...

Sounds different with the Muslim background. I'll watch for it.

susan said...

I enjoyed Randa Abdel-Fattah's, Does My Head Look Big In This. If she likes this and you're writing about it, I'm going to look for it. And I'm really interested in getting more books that deal with mental illness.