Jamie just wants to fit in. She doesn’t want to be seen as a stereotypical Muslim girl named Jamilah, so she does everything possible to hide that part of herself, even if it means keeping her friends at a distance. But when the cutest boy in school asks her out and her friends start to wonder about her life outside of school, suddenly her secrets are threatened. Jamie has to figure out how to be both Jamie and Jamilah before she loses everything…
This book, along with Randa Abdel-Fattah’s earlier Does My Head Look Big In This?, was one of my racially diverse reads for 2014. I wanted to enjoy Ten Things I Hate About Me, because it’s essentially chick lit – I don’t read that genre often but when I do it’s a nice break from my usual thousand-page fantasy tomes. However, I was disappointed.
The book is not entirely without merit, but multiple aspects of it annoyed me. Up next is a list of three bad things and one good thing about Ten Things I Hate About Me.
This review is spoiler-free!
BAD: The dialogue was awkward.
It felt stiff. Clunky. Unrealistic. It didn’t flow. Abdel-Fattah’s first book, Does My Head Look Big In This?, also suffered from poor dialogue but in the form of way too many expository monologues – but that wasn’t a problem in this book. Instead, I felt that the author was trying too hard to show how she Understands Kids and is an Awesome, Hip Adult.
It didn’t work. It wasn’t the slang, exactly (since this book is Australian the slang wouldn’t match up to what I’m used to anyway). I guess the characters just sounded like they were rehearsing lines for a play, not speaking naturally. It really threw me, and that’s unfortunate because most of the book is dialogue.
(Also, I couldn’t figure out why Abdel-Fattah’s second book had worst dialogue than her first.)
BAD: Jamie’s brother and sister were not written well.
Let’s start with Jamie’s brother, Bilal. At the beginning of the novel he was horribly written. I don’t mean that he was a “bad guy” – he just had no depth! He was the stereotypical lazy hoodlum, more like a cardboard cut-out than a fleshed-out character. Bilal does become more complex by the novel’s conclusion, but I’m not sure even that was enough to make up for how boring he was at first.
Meanwhile, Shareen (Jamie’s sister) was great at first and then – I don’t know what happened. She went from this awesome brainy rebel to this girl who says essentially, “Meh, I don’t see the point in going to protests anymore.” I loved that originally she stood up for what she believed in, and changing her mind so quickly didn’t fit with her character.
BAD: Jamie’s eventual boyfriend was a jerk.
At the book’s start she had a crush on Peter, even though he’s racist. However, Jamie gradually fell for John – who can’t stand Peter, his friends, or his bigotry. Sounds awesome, right?
Um. I don’t know. John was made out to be this awesome guy, but I don’t think he deserved it. He lied to her about who he was, mocked her for wanting to fit in, and generally said a lot of odd things that left me questioning if Jamie just settled for him because he wasn’t quite as bad as Peter. I mean, he said “You owe me an apology for not accepting my apology” soon after the incident when he lied to her. Excuse me? Jamie was hurt and confused, and she can take all the time in the world to figure out how she feels about your little game.
Sure, he wasn’t racist but if that’s considered spectacular, John was setting the bar pretty low. Dump him, Jamie.
GOOD: The book made me think about racism in other countries.
I’d thought of the issue before, of course, but in the vague way that comes from not actually, well, living in [insert other country]. It was interesting to see how people in foreign countries reacted to ethnic minorities. Also, I laughed a lot about the Australian racists’ family history – dude, your ancestors were convicts. I hardly think you can say that people whose skin is darker than yours are terrible citizens!
To summarize, Ten Things I Hate About Me was not the worst book in the world. (I would’ve written a list of ten things I hated about it, but I would be lying if I said there were that many.) It was certainly not the best book, though, and didn’t live up to my expectations – not by a long shot. At least it’s a quick read so if you try it and, like me, don’t enjoy it, you haven’t lost that much time.
Have you read Ten Things I Hate About Me or any other books by Randa Abdel-Fattah?