Hi there! Today’s review is for a new YA book titled ‘A Girl Like That’ by Tanaz Bhathena. This is a story about a girl named Zarin Wadia, a 16-year-old girl growing up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I’m just going state right here that this is not a story about a teenage whirlwind romance defying the odds of a picture-perfect love story in the face of gender inequality. In fact, if you read the synopsis you learn before diving in that Zarin and her friend, Porus, have both died in a car accident. The story goes back and forth in time with multiple perspectives and leads up to how Zarin and Porus’ tragic death came to be.
Zarin was adopted by her Aunt and Uncle following mother’s death when she was very young. Her father, a criminal, is dead as well. Zarin’s relationship with her aunt and uncle is very rocky. Her aunt is not a likable character in the least. She physically abuses Zarin and pretty much curses her very existence on a daily basis. Zarin’s uncle, albeit who is much kinder, does little to defend Zarin or stand up to her aunt.Zarin is a very carefree girl. She rebels against her aunt and uncle by smoking and talking to boys. She befriends boys with cars so they can drive her around town. She quickly becomes the girl her classmate’s parents warn them about befriending. I don’t think it would be much of spoiler if I state that Zarin really doesn’t have any friends. She is bullied and slut-shamed A LOT by not only her classmates but her aunt, uncle, and their neighbors as well.
This story was very culturally different from what I’m used to reading in terms of setting and society. Although America is far from perfect as a progressive culture and society in regards to the treatment of men and women, especially the treatment of women and men of color, I learned a lot about Saudi Arabian culture and about the ways women are treated differently than men. There are a lot of instances that could be triggering for people such as rape, domestic abuse, racism, bullying, rape culture and mental illness. With that said, this book was very difficult to swallow at times, because it is very honest and it doesn’t sugar coat things. Again, this reality for a lot of people in many cultures, even in America.
I decided to give this story a 3.5/‘s. The story all around was very informative, but at times I felt that it dragged, especially when the story would go back in time to Zarin as a little girl. I want to say I wish this story was lighter but that’s just not the kind of story this is. Honestly, I was dying for Zarin to get a break from the harsh treatment she received at home. And although I knew Zarin’s fate, I found myself hoping it would be different. I would have liked to have seen Zarin and Porus’ relationship really develop and possibly deepen, but a long life is never promised. As we know, it can be gone in the blink of an eye, upending your hopes and future plans. I would suggest reading a lighthearted story after this one, but don’t bypass this one, because more stories like this one are needed and I’m very glad this one was written and I don’t regret reading it.