Thursday, 28 June 2018

Book Review: A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena

Book: A Girl Like That

Author: Tanaz Bhathena 

Pages: 384

Publisher: Penguin India

Read On: Paperback

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2 days

Plot Summary: Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk-taker. She's also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker, whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school. You don't want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that. 

Things I Liked:

1. This book surprised me. In the best way possible. Partly it's my own 'fault', I went in pretty blind. I barely glanced at the blurb on the back of the book before I read it and erroneously thought that this would be one easy, breezy, happy YA read. Honestly, I went in expecting it. Boy was I wrong and I am not even a little bit mad about it. This book was so much more than a breezy YA read. It was a whole other ball game and it was very, very good.

2. I really enjoyed the writing a lot. It's simple but powerful in places it needs to be. The writer has done a great job getting into the skin of these characters and make all of them come across as living, breathing and feeling individuals.

3. A Girl Like That. Haven't you heard this phrase so many times? She's a slut. Easy. Spoilt. Whore. Trouble maker. Labels get thrown around all the time and you know what? They stick. Especially if you are in school, a label follows you through the years. I went to an all girls Convent school and man, it was a prudish hell sometimes. A girl with a boyfriend was automatically a whore. Everyone knew about her and wondered about her 'virtue'. And even years and years after school ended, she would forever more be 'that girl'. The one with a boyfriend, the one with loose morals. It makes me sick to think how quick we are to judge and label and condemn. This book brought back so many of these memories and the author has done a phenomenal job of taking the reader right into the very pits of a girl world.

4. Zarin Wadia will break your heart. She is such a wonderful character to get to know and spend time with. Her life and really her miserable home life will break your heart. It has been a good while since I've wanted to get inside a book and slap a character silly,  in this book I wanted to jump inside this world and do some seriously bodily harm to Zarin's maasi. What a total cow! Ugh! As impossible as it was (since Zarin is dead in Chapter 1) I was rooting for Zarin. I wanted so desperately wishing her a way out of her miserable home life and the cruelty she is dealt with in school. I wanted her to step away from this world and find her own people and be happy for a change. Zarin is relatable and wonderful and deserved so much better. She is a stellar character and I am sure most of us would know someone like her.

5. This story is told from multiple perspectives and it adds so many different dimensions to the book. We see so many different stories and so learn so much about the inner workings of these people. I loved slipping into the minds of these characters and felt like it made the book a much richer experience.

6. This book tackles so many important topics and does a good job of doing them justice. We read about abuse, violence, toxic masculinity, rape culture, slut shaming, consent and depression and mental health. And even all these things being discussed and included in the story, it doesn't feel cluttered or forced or a bit much. The writer has done a good job doing justice to each topic.

7. Even this book is set in the Middle East and  chronicles some of it's social mores. I related to it so much. And if you grew up in India and went to a certain kind of school, this book will remind you so much of your growing up years. Sadly, the moral policing and slut shaming is still a prevalent menace in our society. This book will for sure touch a nerve.

8. I am sure more girls/women than boys/men will pick up this book but I wish more guys would give it a read. To understand the harm that toxic masculinity does. To understand about consent. To learn about rape culture and slut shaming. To see how the other half deals with the constant judgement of society.

9. I really enjoyed the ending of this book. Even though it didn't change Zarin's fate it was still immensely satisfying.

10. This is such an incredible and moving and powerful read and I honestly cannot recommend it enough. There are so many other things I loved about it but I don't want to gush on.
Pick it up. You will like it I am sure.

I will say though there are some TRIGGER WARNINGS  for bullying & sexual assault. So tread carefully.

Rating: 4/5

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