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Skunk Girl [Hardcover]

Sheba Karim

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Book Description

March 31 2009
If Nina Khan were to rate herself on the unofficial Pakistani prestige point system – the one she’s sure all the aunties and uncles use to determine the most attractive marriage prospects for their children – her scoring might go something like this:

+2 points
for getting excellent grades
–3 points for failing to live up to expectations set by genius older sister
+4 points for dutifully obeying parents and never, ever going to parties, no matter how antisocial that makes her seem to everyone at Deer Hook High
–1 point for harboring secret jealousy of her best friends, who are allowed to date like normal teenagers
+2 points for never drinking an alcoholic beverage
–10 points for obsessing about Asher Richelli, who talks to Nina like she’s not a freak at all, even though he knows that she has a disturbing line of hair running down her back

In this wryly funny debut novel, the smart, sassy, and utterly lovable Nina Khan tackles friends, family, and love, and learns that it’s possible to embrace two very different cultures – even if things can get a little bit, well, hairy.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: FSG Kids; First Edition edition (March 31 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374370117
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374370114
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 363 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,001,472 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


“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.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  22 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A much needed viewpoint, but weak on plot Feb. 18 2010
By M. Garrison - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I was excited to get a copy of this book, since there just isn't much fiction out there written from the perspective of Muslim American youth. And in that sense, the book definitely fulfilled its promise -- the author develops the character of Nina in a way that really pulls us in to the struggle she feels in wanting to fit in with her friends, while also trying to please her traditional Pakistani parents who are always comparing Nina to her "perfect" older sister.

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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meet Nina Aug. 23 2009
By Little Willow - Published on
High school is hard enough, but add on the pressure of being the younger sister of a "Supernerd" as well as the only Asian or Muslim in her class and it's no wonder that Nina Khan feels a little out-of-sorts. Though Nina loves and appreciates her parents, she wishes they would let her have more of a social life. Though they are very kind, her parents are pretty strict when it comes to things like dating. She's now allowed to date, nor can she go to parties or school dances. When her friends are out and about on Saturday nights, Nina's expected to stay home and study.

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.)

Highly recommended.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Skunk Girl Jan. 26 2009
By E.B. Bristol - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Plot: Girl notices Hottie. Sometimes in these sorts of books, the heroine has an interest besides boys, but not really here. So you expect the book to be mostly about getting the guy. Usually, the formula for these books go: Girl notices Hottie. Girl comes up with some kind of scheme to snare the Hottie. Wacky misunderstandings result. Girl gains self-respect and winds up with a guy who is not nearly as hot, but more compatible. There are variations, but these kinds of books have been around forever. This is not that kind of book.

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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DIFFERENCES AND DEALING WITH THEM March 11 2009
By S. Al-Amri - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Young girls often feel out of place and different and this story is about a teen who has major cultural differences with her classmates. She can't do many of the things they take for granted but doesn't want to disappoint her loving parents by rebelling. The strong family values of the Pakistani Muslim community are very clearly shown.

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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars finally, a book for hairy girls April 5 2009
By Abeer Y. Hoque - Published on
When you read this review, keep in mind that "Skunk Girl" was written by one of my best friends in the whole world:) I've read a lot of Sheba's writing over the years and I love her style which is so breezy and grounded.

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.

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