Review posted February 7, 2024.
Little, Brown and Company, 2023. 409 pages.
Review written March 27, 2023, from a library book.
2023 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#10 More Teen Fiction
The Next New Syrian Girl beautiful interlaces the story of Khadija, a Syrian American girl about to graduate from high school, with Leene, a Syrian refugee girl the same age who has come to Detroit with her mother.
Khadija chafes under the control of her mother and finds relief at a local gym, where she learns to box, wearing her hijab. But when Khadija’s mother opens their home to Leene and her mother – and then holds Leene up as what a Syrian daughter should be like – Khadija isn’t pleased.
But as the girls get to know each other, they find each has something to learn from the other. Both girls are mourning the Syria they knew before war struck, but each had very different experiences.
I like the way Khadija wears a hijab but is not at all stereotypical. The characters read like distinctive individuals, so you feel like you’re getting to know real people when you read this book. A lot of the plot hinges on an enormous coincidence, but that coincidence means both girls are highly motivated to go to great lengths to make things right, so it did further the plot.
This debut stirred my heart and opened my eyes.