Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Amal's experiences as a new girl in a snobby prep school (and relatively homogeneously white) in Australia apply to most anyone who has felt like an outsider. She is Australian-Palestinian-Muslim and decides to go "full time" with a hijab (head covering). Already on the social fringes at her school, her parents are concerned, but supportive of her decision. Amal misses her Muslim friends who are at another school, but fortunately she has two great pals at the prep school who share their own issues. Subjects include body-image, boys, zits, bullying, cliques, a grumpy neighbor and racist bus driver.
I think many teens will relate to Amal (although her spending money is probably the envy of many readers), and may also appreciate learning about differences and similarities among different religions including Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Abdel-Fattah has done a good job distributing the factual tidbits among the characters so they don't read like infomercials or preaching passages.
Amal is wonderfully outspoken, balanced with her inner turmoil, so her voice rings true. She loves her mother, but Amal can't let her think that she isn't ruining her life - and her mom gives it right back.
For those who remember the bombing of the nightclub in Bali in 2002, the post 9/11 time frame is significant. Amal's responses to her friends, and classmates asking her to be a spokesperson for the Islamic world feel authentic -- and can be applied to any situation where someone is asked to play spokesperson for "all" feminists, blacks, lesbians, nerds, etc.
Definitely a good choice for any library - great for discussion. YAY