Friday, December 7, 2012

Bestest. Ramadan. Ever by Medeia Sharif

Title: Bestest. Ramadan. Ever
Author: Medeia Sharif
Publisher: Flux Books
Release Date: July 8, 2011
Pages: 299 pages (paperback)
How I Got the Book: Bought it.
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: book trailer | author website

Bestest. Ramadan. Ever.No pizza. No boyfriend. (No life.)

Okay, so during Ramadan, we're not allowed to eat from sunrise to sunset. For one whole month. My family does this every year, even though I've been to a mosque exactly twice in my life. And it's true, I could stand to lose a few pounds. (Sadly, my mom's hotness skipped a generation.) But is starvation really an acceptable method? I think not.

Even worse, my oppressive parents forbid me to date. This is just cruel and wrong. Especially since Peter, a cute and crushable artist, might be my soul mate. Figures my bestest friend Lisa likes him, too. To top it off, there's a new Muslim girl in school who struts around in super-short skirts, commanding every boy's attention--including Peter's. How can I get him to notice me? And will I ever figure out how to be Muslim and American?


I feel awful for writing this, but a review is a review and I've got too much to say for me to just leave this novel unreviewed. There are never enough novels about characters other than the upper-middle-class white girl, so I've been understandably looking forward to Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. for months. This novel, like so many others I have anticipated this year, turned out to be a hot mess rife with one-dimensional characters and horrid plotting.

The only compliment that can be given is for the portrayal of Almira's home life. The difficulties of living in a household where your grandfather is a very traditional Muslim and your parents retain a few of the stricter values like the "no boyfriends" rule sounds difficult, and the scenes where Almira interacts with her family are the ones that really shine. My grandfather may be a borderline-fundamental Christian, but the way her family has to be careful not to do anything that angers Grandpa or else a fight will happen reminds me of the way my family has to creep around Papa. Even the fight Almira's mother has with Grandpa at one point resembles a fight my own mother had with Papa. Some things transcend religion.

That is where the good ends, sadly. Almira has a one-note personality, her friends are the same way, and Peter, the love interest she spends the entire book mooning over, has none at all. These characters never grow and change. This gets especially frustrating when she criticizes herself for being shallow in the past when she is just as shallow, if not more so, in the present. The occasion where she called her own mother ungrateful for not noticing when a teenage boy ogles her (the mother) didn't do much to make her bearable either. She never regrets that or thinks back on it.

Really, I think Sharif tries so hard to make Almira to sound like a normal teenager that she overdoes it. Almira is a rambling, living stereotype of a teenage girl. Her friends are the same way and one can only bear so much for so long. With a lack of dynamic characters to make this character-driven and no plot to make it plot-driven, all that got me through the novel was sheer stubbornness. Like a mule, in a way. I kept reading because I had hope, but once again, my shiny little hopes were struck down and drowned in mud.

All that separates this novel from some of the worst I've ever read is that it didn't make me rage. It just made me sad a novel that really could have been something had to kill its own potential with flat characters and cliches.

1.5 stars!

What am I reading next?: Good Girls by Laura Ruby