LIKE NANCY DREW, BUT NOT…
Craving a taste of teenage life, Asiya Haque defies her parents to go for a walk (really, it was just a walk!) in the woods with Michael, her kind-of-friend/crush/the guy with the sweetest smile she’s ever seen. Her tiny transgression goes completely off track when they stumble on a dead body. Michael covers for Asiya, then goes missing himself.
Despite what the police say, Asiya is almost sure Michael is innocent. But how will she, the sheltered girl with the strictest parents ever, prove anything? With Michael gone, a rabid police officer in desperate need of some sensitivity training, and the murderer out there, how much will Asiya risk to do what she believes is right?.
God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems by Ishara Deen
Published: January 15th 2017 by Deeya Publishing Inc
Source: ARC via request
‘For all the girls who were never told someone like them could, not even in books.’
This was a delight to read. I loved Asiya’s sense of humour, wit, and curiosity in tackling this mystery. (Also, yes to all her X-men comic references.) I remember watching teen sleuth shows like Veronica Mars, and the contemporary Nancy Drew nods from Asiya are both compelling and apt here too. Perfect for any teen looking for a good mystery with well-paced intrigue.
Asiya’s cautious but down-to-earth approach to her crush Michael was also sweet and his role in the mystery was well-played. Their banter had nuance, and I liked how their interactions grew out of a friendship. As a Muslim Bengali-Canadian teen, Asiya draws a relatable balancing act around understanding her immigrant parents’ desire to protect her (from everything) while also trying to assert her own path and interests in life with her local conservation volunteer group.
This book also made me reflect upon how similar Asiya’s experiences of growing up in an immigrant family were to my own. Despite surface differences in religion and ethnicity, we shared more similarities – Asiya’s gossiping aunts, her protective mother, questions, and visits to the mosque – reminded me of my own family, community, questions and visits to church.
I also connected with the thread of sibling solidarity that Asiya shared with Adil, her brother. The parental disapproval that comes with being measured against siblings and/or friends if one didn’t ace every subject is common in South-Asian (and South-east Asian) families. Like Asiya, I responded to that use of shame by banding together with siblings instead of being divided by comparisons. It was great to see that experience on the page too.
Also, Asiya’s witty argument to her parents on the educational weight of her volunteer activities, so that she could investigate the mystery on the side was on point.
‘And there it was, the magic key that made the biggest sacrifices okay in our family: higher education.’
During her investigation of the truth, Asiya recognises and bravely calls out internalised misogyny and Islamophobia directed to herself and her family. (Asiya can join Kamala from Ms Marvel as part of the awesome Muslim South Asian heroine crew.) There’s also recognition of the challenges around (white) feminism in the individuals that Asiya meets as she unravels the mystery that affects the people close to her.
This book is a wonderful YA cozy mystery, which balances its exploration of immigrant issues, the foster home system, police politics, religion and many other real-world facets with humour and wit. I can’t wait to pick up the sequel to learn more about Asiya and Michael in the future.
*Note: Even though the ARC included references to OCD, the final version has edited out these references after consultation with reader feedback on its representation.