Skunk Girl Hardcover – Mar 31 2009
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“Karim’s first novel provides a rare exploration of Muslim culture and will be a welcome addition to teen collections.” —Booklist
“A solid choice.” —School Library Journal
“In this debut, episodic novel, rife with smart, self-deprecating humor . . . Nina searches for identity and emerging independence while accepting the reality of her home life.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Whether they share Nina’s circumstances or not, readers will readily identify with her struggle, and they’ll find her an endearing and admirable literary companion.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
"This is one of the funniest books anyone can read."—A YALSA YA Galley Teen Reader
"The book was a quick read and taught me a lot about the Muslim culture. The author uses everyday language, so anybody can read it. There aren’t that many books out there that has such an interesting point of view (from a Muslim’s perspective)." —A YALSA YA Galley Teen Reader
"The story was really entertaining, I didn't want to put it down." —A YALSA YA Galley Teen Reader
"This was a fun read that left me . . . thinking."—Rebecca, 13
"Pleae write a sequel,"— Cecelia, age 13
About the Author
SHEBA KARIM was born and raised in the Catskills. She received an M.F.A. in fiction from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and presently lives in New York City. This is her first book.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
So for me, the character development was great -- and truthfully, I think the book may be worth reading just for that alone -- but I just didn't feel like there was enough depth to the actual *story* to pull me along the way many books do. For me, there really isn't any one point during the book where I have any doubt that Nina will turn out just fine, and figure out how to find some happiness for herself. Truthfully, it felt a lot like the "cultural fiction" I remember being required to read in 7th-9th grade -- heavy on character, slow on plot.
The majority of residients in their little town of Deer Hook, New York are white. Nina and her older sister Sonia, who is now at college studying to become a doctor, are first-generation Pakistani-Americans. Her parents both came from middle-class families in Pakistan. They are intelligent, confident adults who regularly encourage their daughters to stay true to their Muslim values.
Since first grade, Nina has found solace in her two awesome best friends, Helena, a vibrant, ever-cheerful redhead, and Bridget, a tall blonde who is usually clumsy yet extremely graceful on the ski slopes. Now juniors in high school, the three girls are as close as ever. While Helena and Bridget can date whomever they like, Nina can't bring up the nerve to ask out Asher, the new boy on campus. Her tongue gets tied around him, and she knows her parents would disapprove of her dating an Italian boy.
Nina's first person narrative is insightful and allows the readers to learn of (and relate to) the fears and worries which she can't vocalize. Similar to the chapter markings in Everything Beautiful in the World by Lisa Levchuk, each brief chapter in Skunk Girl bears a title appropriate to the events which take place in that section's pages. The book's title comes from the stripe of hair Nina has running down the center of her back - something that her crush sees, much to her mortification, because it starts at the nape of her neck.
This is yet another YA novel I will recommend to both teens and adults. This recommendation is not only due to debut novelist Karim's heartfelt writing, but also because the story takes place in the early nineties and thus will definitely appeal to readers who were teens at that time. (The music references will bring you back there in a second. At home, Nina listens to a Smiths mix tape; when the song Jump Around plays during a big party scene, it will start playing in your head, too.)
Nina, the heroine is likeable and sympathetic but passive. If you are expecting there to be some kind of hookup or drama, you will be waiting quite awhile. For example, there is a Queen Bee ordered straight from central casting, and she and the heroine don't get along, so you expect that there will be some kind of confrontation. Which there finally is - on page 176. Then there's the hookup which only lasts a chapter. I kept waiting for Nina to do something proactive instead of just pine after the Hottie. I waited in vain for her to sneak around behind her parents' back, or for her to confront her parents, or her older sister to drop a bombshell, like that she's a lesbian or is dating a white guy. Something, anything to put some drama in the story. By page 90 or so, I wasn't picky. To mix mediums, I wish she were more like the girl in the movie "Bend it Like Beckham," who was also a Pakistani Muslim teen (I think) and who defied her traditional family so that she could play on a women's soccer team. Books are not usually written about people who follow the rules almost all the time. If they did, there would be little drama and even less story. Teens of every ethnicity get embarrassed by their parents, feel their parents don't understand them, etc., etc. While reading about another culture is fascinating, there has to be something more to sustain the story.
A Muslim teen will find this book especially interesting. But any other teen who feels different in some way might also like reading it and get some direction from it. The book is very well written for the Young Adult age range and would be a valuable addition to a school library.
I started laughing from page 1 of SG, and not just because of the Jolene and SAT antonyms and the fact that we're hearing a story about South Asian immigrant lives. Naturally, overbearing traditionalist parents and obsessive academic regimes are resonant themes with me, and it's great to finally get a window open in that house, but more so, the writing in SG is light and witty and humourous and the teenage protagonist, Nina Khan, is actually loveable, as the book jacket promises (prompts?).
The dialogue and pacing is great, and I found myself wanting to know what Nina was going to do or think next, even if it was just a tiny tumult versus a grand upheaval. Her two best friends are nicely depicted (though it took me some time to separate them in my head). I especially enjoyed her father's character.
SG was an absolute pleasure to read, and I SO wish it had been around 20 years ago when I was 15, and I wouldn't have been felt so much the only lonely hairy girl out there.