I received this book for free from HarperTeen in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Mariam Sharma Hits the Road by Sheba Karim
Published by HarperTeen on June 5th, 2018
Genres: Adventure, Contemporary, YA
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Three Pakistani-American teenagers, on a trip through the land of pork ribs, mechanical bulls, and Confederate flags. It's going to be quite an adventure.
The summer after her freshman year of college, Mariam is looking forward to working and hanging out with her best friends: irrepressible and beautiful Ghazala, and religious but closeted Umar.
But when a scandalous photo of Ghaz appears on a billboard in Times Square, Mariam and Umar come up with a plan to rescue her from her furious parents. And what could be a better escape than a spontaneous road trip down to New Orleans?
With the heartbreaking honesty of Julie Murphy's Dumplin' mixed with with the cultural growing pains and smart snark of When Dimple Met Rishi, this wry, remarkable road-trip story is about questioning where you come from--and choosing the family that chooses you back.
That Thing We Call a Heart was one of my favorite books of 2017 so obviously, when I heard about Mariam Sharma Hits the Road, I was ecstatic and ready to dive in. This review is particularly hard because even though, overall, I definitely enjoyed Mariam Sharma Hits the Road, there were times when I felt let down by some of the things the characters said.
I am grappling for words as I attempt to describe my feelings because I want to be respectful and clear that these experiences aren’t invalid but one of the biggest dichotomy in the book is how Mariam is raised vs how her friends are raised. Mariam grew up in a household that wasn’t religious or super connected to their cultural roots and her mom was super supportive whereas her friends grew up in religious households and have shitty parents. My issue wasn’t necessarily that Mariam’s friends had a complex relationship with their parents because of the way they were treated. It was more that the dichotomy that was created made it seem like, to me at least, that growing up in a more religious and traditional household was ultimately a bad thing? To add to this, there were a handful of jokes that the three friends make at the expense of people who wear niqabs. The real issue being that none of this was clearly addressed in the text.
It is worth noting that later on in the book, the characters have a very thorough and open conversation about their identities as Pakistani-Americans (or in the case of Mariam, Pakistani-Indian-American), what that means to them and the privileges they have in spite of the prejudice they deal with on a daily basis.
When Ghaz signs up to model for an underwear company, she has no idea that her photo will end up on a billboard in Times Square. Gossip soon spreads and her parents lock her up in her room. Potentially indefinitely. Mariam and Umar, worried, decide to perform a daring rescue and go on a road trip to New Orleans. Over the course of the next couple weeks, the three have a number of adventures, attempt to dissect their traumas, and figure out how to move on.
My favorite thing about the book is really its intense focus on their friendship. Mariam, Umar and Ghaz are supportive of one another, push each other to be their best selves and are also not perfect. Not when it comes to their friendships and not as human beings.
Mariam Sharma Hits the Road is a coming of age novel that explores identities, familial relationships and the power of some really great friendships. It isn’t perfect and I think it is important to be aware of the character’s prejudices but overall, I think the book is definitely worth it. HELL YEAH TO ROAD TRIPS.
3.5 Hot Espressos