*I received a complimentary eARC of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*
Three female Muslim teenagers must decide how far they are willing to go to defend their beliefs when faced with the pressures of life.
Thirteen-year-old Sadia is Muslim and passionate about one thing: basketball. When her teacher announces tryouts for this year’s co-ed team, she jumps at the opportunity. Her talent speaks for itself. Her head scarf, on the other hand, is a problem. Surrounded by her classmates and a new friend, Syrian refugee Amira, Sadia learns about standing up for herself and fighting for what is right.
Written from Sadia’s point of view, the book examines how three female Muslim teenagers experience life. Sadia wants to maintain her Muslim identity and refuses to remove her head covering at a basketball tournament; Amira is a Syrian refugee, reeling from the trauma she experienced when she fled her home; and Nazreen is ready to eschew her Muslim heritage to fit in with the popular crowd at school.
During the book fair at our school, I remember seeing one of my student’s faces light up as she dashed over to a book on display. It was immediately obvious why. This student wears a hijab, and the cover this book? It had a character wearing a hijab on the front. That’s the moment I remembered when I saw Colleen Nelson’s Sadia on Netgalley, and why I immediately requested to read it.
Colleen Nelson could have written this book as a heavily, depressing look at what it’s like being a Muslim girl in the western world. But that’s not what this book did. Instead, it was a fun read about a girl who is a lot of things. I loved Sadia, our main character. Sadia is fairly confident in her religion, but struggles with normal teen problems. We see Sadia trying to get people to see her as more than just her hijab, but we see her other conflicts too. Sadia struggles with crushes, friends, world events, and sports. Can we talk about how awesome it was to see a book involving a girl wearing a hijab and playing sports? Because it was awesome.
The plot arc could have been a little stronger. There wasn’t one major conflict, but rather a bunch of little ones. They all had a place in the book, but the book couldn’t quite decide which was a subplot and which was the main plot. The ending also felt a little rushed to me, but maybe that was because I was reading so quickly wanting to know what happened!
While Sadia is in 9th grade, the story is pretty clean, and I feel comfortable recommending it for middle grade readers like my students. I’m excited that I’ll be able to add some positive representation to my classroom library.
Sadia by Colleen Nelson is available for purchase February 27th, 2018.