Cover Image: The Next New Syrian Girl

The Next New Syrian Girl

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Member Reviews

Khadija Shami is a Syrian American high school senior raised on boxing and football. Saddled with a monstrous ego and a fierce mother to test it, she dreams of escaping her sheltered life to travel the world with her best friend.
Leene Tahir is a Syrian refugee, doing her best to adjust to the wildly unfamiliar society of a suburban Detroit high school while battling panic attacks and family pressures.
When their worlds collide the result is catastrophic. To Khadija, Leene embodies the tame, dutiful Syrian ideal she's long rebelled against. And to Leene, Khadija is the strong-willed, closed-off American who makes her doubt her place in the world.
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Khadija is an all-(Syrian)American teenager who loves boxing, has an overbearing and kinda rude mom, and wants to go on a big trip with her best friend for graduation.

Leene has moved to America with her mother; they are Syrian refugees who left the country in the wake of the Syrian revolution. It wasn’t always just the two of them, and the memories of before haunt Leene, so she hasn’t had the mental space or time to enjoy or wish for anything in quite some time.

To Khadija’s dismay, her mom offers their home to Leene and her mother. What’s initially considered an inconvenience to Khadija results in a sweet friendship, and the two girls do more than just have fun together. With Khadija, Leene stumbles back across a big secret from her past, with results that could be life-changing to her family of two, and not necessarily in a good way.

Leene has a great deal of trauma, understandably. Khadija suffers a ton of pressure from her mom to be “the perfect Syrian girl”, more like Leene, which she finds impossible to do as a Syrian American: too American for the Syrians, too Syrian for the Americans.

Khadija misses the Syria she visited family in as a child, with memories of it being beautiful and summery, while Leene’s memories are of a war-torn Syria, shells of buildings and emotional ties to some of the worst moments of her life.

The differences between the two girls makes their friendship even more beautiful, and it’s interesting to watch them find the threads that do connect them when so much about each of them is unlike the other. It’s so worth the read
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Oh this was a fantastic read! Getting to know Khadija and Leene was a joy. There are so many elements of the story that I enjoyed. I loved that mental health was addressed, PTSD to be more specific. We also have themes of friendship along with strong and powerful women. Of course, overcoming adversity plays a huge part. Something I really appreciate it was the fact that though people can come from different backgrounds, there are still some commonality that binds us together. And the opposite is also true just: because a person shares a similar background to you, you could have completely, and totally different lived experiences.
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Five Reasons to Read The Next New Syrian Girl!

1. Friendship. This is an emotional story about two women who come together through their life experiences to find a way to give back and get back to the Syria they both love. 
2. Fierce Women. Khadija uses her love of boxing to not only defy her overbearing mother but to also show her that she can take care of herself. 
3. Perseverance. Leene is determined to get back to Syria, even if she has to save the money herself because after she finds out her little brother may still be alive, there's no way she's going to stay put. Khadija is determined to get Leene to Syria despite the lack of her mother's support. 
4. Mental Health Awareness. Leene struggles with anxiety and PTSD due to her experiences moving from War torn Syria to Jordan and back to Syria before receiving Asylum in the United States. Khadija's brother Zane hasn't been the same since they got back from Syria. Little did they know that he has been battling with depression.
5. Defying Adversity. Leene and Khadija may attend a school where other Syrian students go but over the course of this book you'll find that even though someone comes from the same culture, not all understand your life experiences.
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“𝒀𝒐𝒖 𝒎𝒊𝒈𝒉𝒕 𝒏𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒓 𝒔𝒆𝒆 𝒚𝒐𝒖𝒓 𝒇𝒂𝒎𝒊𝒍𝒚 𝒊𝒏 𝑺𝒚𝒓𝒊𝒂 𝒂𝒈𝒂𝒊𝒏, 𝒃𝒖𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒊𝒓 𝒎𝒆𝒎𝒐𝒓𝒊𝒆𝒔 𝒍𝒊𝒗𝒆 𝒘𝒊𝒕𝒉 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒇𝒐𝒓𝒆𝒗𝒆𝒓. 𝑬𝒗𝒆𝒏 𝒊𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒚’𝒓𝒆 𝒐𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒐𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒓 𝒔𝒊𝒅𝒆 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒘𝒐𝒓𝒍𝒅 𝒐𝒓 𝒊𝒇 𝒚𝒐𝒖 𝒄𝒂𝒏’𝒕 𝒔𝒕𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒕𝒐 𝒃𝒆 𝒂𝒓𝒐𝒖𝒏𝒅 𝒕𝒉𝒆𝒎 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒚 𝒍𝒐𝒏𝒈.”

The Next New Syrian Girl
By Ream Shukairy
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Publishing Date: March 14, 2023
My Rate: 5⭐❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ 

Special thanks to the author, @tbrbeyondtours ,  @netgalley and to the publisher for approving this copy. I'm on cloud nine to be part of the tour.

The first thing about this novel that caught my attention was the Middle Eastern representation, which I always love in a book. I was even more convinced to read it after reading the synopsis and the title. I also can't stop admiring this stunning cover.

I can't even speak anymore. This book has it all. I can't put into words how much I adore this novel. It was easy to get along, yet the words depiction was profound. Also, the concept itself was deep. I adore both of the characters, Khadija and Leene. Despite the conflict they both experienced in the beginning, their friendship has grown more endearing as the story goes on.

Both Characters are lovely and kind. They simply have different ways of expressing their love for others, mainly for their families. As I read more, I'm becoming increasingly in love with them. The ending was so emotional, and the Syrian vibe was beautifully depicted. 

It is such an honor for me to have the opportunity to read this sweet yet poignant book. It's definitely worth the hype. Thanks to the author for bringing up this beautiful story. Syria will always have a special spot in my heart and hopefully, with this story's written, Syria and its people won't be forgotten by the world. Let's have them in our prayers and never stop!
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In dual perspectives we see the powerful way the lives of Khadija, a Syrian American, and Leene, A Syrian Refugee, intertwine. 

Khadija is a boxer who can't wait to be 18 and move out of her parent's house. Leene got her and her mom to America, but now the trauma of her journey is coming to light through panic attacks. 

Both were strong from the very beginning, but the character change shown in this novel is incredible, and shows the progress of showing bravery can be seen in different ways than society expects.
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5 Stars 

The Next New Syrian Girl follows two Muslim girls as they try to navigate the world around them when the world seems set on tearing them down.

Khadija is a Syrian American who uses boxing as a way to escape the fights with her mother, who wants her to be “the perfect Syrian daughter”, and her fear for her family living in Syria. She comes off as combative and defensive oftentimes keeping those close to her at an arm’s length. When Leene first comes into the picture, she isn’t the biggest fan of hers and she represents everything her mother wants her to be. As the story progresses though, she goes through lots of personal growth finding a balance between being Syrian enough and gaining her own sense of independence.

Leene is a Syrian Refugee who has come to Detroit with her mother, but still carries the pain of  her past life in Syria while trying to adjust to her new life in America. Leene represents "the perfect Syrian daughter" presenting herself as soft spoken and doing whatever is asked of her. Underneath the surface though, she suffers from the pain and loss she experienced in Syria but doesn't want to be seen as weak and frail by others. 

Shukairy does a brilliant job of weaving the two girls’ own personal journeys into one comprehensive storyline. As the story progresses, Khadija and Leene develop a beautiful friendship gaining new perspectives they didn’t hold otherwise. Through Khadija and Leene the author allows the readers to explore Syrian identities through two different perspectives — one of a refugee and another one from America. While they are polar opposites, they are able to form a beautiful sisterhood helping each other heal in the process from trauma and pain they’ve experienced.

Shukairy does a brilliant job of weaving the two girls' own personal journeys into one comprehensive storyline. As the story progresses, Khadija and Leene develop a beautiful friendship gaining new perspectives they didn’t hold otherwise. Through Khadija and Leene the author allows the readers to explore Syrian identities through two different perspectives — one of a refugee and another one from America. While they are polar opposites, they are able to form a beautiful sisterhood helping each other heal in the process from trauma and pain they’ve experienced.

The writing in this story was absolutely breathtaking and gorgeous, pairing perfectly with this poignant and heartwarming story that emphasizes themes of friendships, grief, and family. This is the kind of story that will have readers emotionally invested as they put themselves in the characters' shoes. While I cannot speak of Middle Eastern and Muslim representation, I was so happy to see it as it is often overlooked in Young Adult literature, and feel that many Middle Eastern/Muslim readers will be able to relate to this story.

The Next New Syrian Girl is the kind of story that is hard to put into words just how good it is. It's the kind of story that will stick with you long after you finish reading and introduce you to diverse perspectives that you weren't aware of before. This is the type of story that I encourage everyone to read as it is full of heart of two loveable and complex characters just trying to navigate through life.
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I read this book as part of the blog tour hosted by TBR & Beyond Tours. Special thanks to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing a digital ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 4 stars!

TL;DR: This was a complex and emotional coming-of-age story about family, identity, and belonging. It shines a pointed light on the impact of the Syrian War on the Syrians in Syria, Syrian refugees, and Syrian Americans. This story is rich in culture and is packed with love for Syria as highlighted by the experiences of Khadija and Leene, two Syrian teenagers whose families may come from the same country but have entirely different life experiences. I loved how they learn from each other and grow together and the strength of the friendship that they form was really heartwarming! This took me on a complex journey of emotions and overall, I thought it was a great debut novel!

There is a lot to love and appreciate in The Next New Syrian Girl—from the richness of the culture, the complex family relationships (especially mother-daughter and brother-sister) and sociocultural expectations, the heartwarming friendships, and the budding soft romance. I feel like this is on the longer side for a contemporary and the author does pack a lot of themes into these pages, but I think Shukairy does a great job weaving an emotional, realistic, heartwrenching and hopeful story. Told through dual perspectives, we follow Khadija and Leene as they navigate being Syrian American and a Syrian refugee respectively and as they fight their inner monsters and deal with the direct and indirect impacts of the war that tore their country apart. We see their experiences as two Hijabi teenagers living in a country where they are treated with vile hatred, bigotry, and racism all based on how they look, what they wear, and where people assume they come from. But we also see them deal with really rough family situations, survivor's guilt, and PTSD.

Khadija was admittedly not a very easy character to like and her portions of the story were surprisingly tougher to read than Leene's, despite the horrors that Leene and her mother had to endure to end up where they are. Khadija is bitter, combative, and abrasive—she's constantly on the defence and keeps most people at arm's length aside from her best friend Nassima and Younes (sort of). Her attitude made her POV very difficult to get through at times but she grew on me by the end, as she experiences *a lot* of personal growth. Most of her attitude stems from the horribly antagonistic relationship full of miscommunications and misunderstandings with her mother; plus, she has an almost non-existent relationship with her father and a careless relationship with her younger brother, Zain. She constantly deals with barbs from her mother about needing to be the "perfect Syrian daughter" according to her standards and continuously falls short. Shukairy portrays their relationship in a very unfiltered light and we get to see the messiness of Khadija's experience trying to balance feeling and being Syrian enough for herself and for everyone else while lunging for independence where and when she can. I came to really respect her strength and how she grew from being that short-tempered and judgemental teenager at the start.

Leene on the other hand is quintessentially the perfect Syrian daughter who respects her elders, cares for her mother in every way she can, and is soft-spoken and demure. But she's hiding a big secret underneath the surface and the more we get to know her, the more we see she's not really that "perfect Syrian girl" people see on the surface. Leene was an easy character to sympathise with. She and her mother have had to endure the unimaginable and her strength was admirable but her willingness to show vulnerability, especially with Khadija, was too. She doesn't want to be seen as a refugee or someone to be pitied for all the loss and trauma she experienced, and she has a really fierce and determined fighting strength that I really respected! I had a feeling her story arc would go the way it did and while I felt this particular part of her story felt very rushed and packed in at the very end, it was a hopeful ending that left my heart feeling light—a welcome reprieve from the heaviness felt for much of the story (not in a negative way at all though)! I loved the friendship that she developed with Khadija—it's always heartwarming to see how two people from such contrasting backgrounds can find common ground, respect and love for each other. I appreciated how the author also had them address their misconceptions about each other which only served to strengthen their friendship!

There were only a few things that I wished had been done differently. I wished the situation with Zain had been done better because it felt very shoehorned in and again, rushed. I also felt there was a lack of nuance to many of the side characters who were there simply to push the story along. As. I mentioned, the last 30% of the book felt very rushed as so much was packed into it and by the time the story came to an end, there was not much time left to process or digest everything that happened. That said, I think this was still a strong debut novel that I'm glad I got the chance to read. I would definitely recommend it to those who want to learn more about the Syrian war, about Syrians living abroad both as refugees and those born and raised in those countries, as well as if you love stories that are rich in culture as well as family drama (lol).
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I initially wanted to read this because I read that there was anxiety rep. But this book turned into more than I could have ever imagined. It’s about feeling like a foreigner in the land of your birth. It’s about sisterhood, mental health, family, and more.

Told in alternating viewpoints, we have Khadija, born and raised in the states. She’s under the weight of her mother, who she feels doesn’t accept her. She’s a boxer who found happiness in finding her strength. But she wants more out of life but living with her family, she knows they won’t let her fly. She’s also so very funny, and I adored her personality, even with the walls she’s erected.

Leene is new to the states. She’s escaped unimaginable horrors. She wants to start a new life, but the past keeps coming back to swallow her whole. I almost suspect Leene has PTSD, though that’s never stated. I empathized with her so much. She had a quiet strength that shone through in the hardest moments.

Watching these two young women come together in sisterhood was an absolute joy. Shukairy brings to light so many important subjects. We wade through depression and anxiety. The girls discuss how wearing a hijab forces them to make people around them feel comfortable. We go through the massacres and the chemical warfare in Syria. There’s so much more that I cannot find the right words for, but this book is beautiful. It’s funny, meaningful, and so very special; I cannot recommend it enough.
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4/5 ☆

As anyone would’ve expected, this was a content-heavy book that explored so much—from what it's like to live in Syria to privilege, having a complicated family dynamic and what lies behind a seemingly perfect family, what it’s like to be a refugee and what it's like to not grow up in one's homeland. 

Straight off the bat, I thought I wouldn’t like Khadija Shami. While I didn’t really warm up to her character entirely, I grew to understand her. She went from being a seemingly self-conceited, I-am-rich-and-not-like-the-other-girls to someone who was flawed and made too many mistakes, who went through an incredible character arc. Her interest(and finding escapism) in boxing was really refreshing to see. 

As for Leene Tahir, I LOVED HER. Though initially portrayed as the perfect girl who every khaleh wants her daughter to be, the more we get to know her, we get to see the person behind that perfect image. A Syrian girl carrying the nightmares of everything she went through in Syria and then the struggles she went through as a refugee. A sister who made a decision that torments her, who has to hold her grief deep within her to move on.. A daughter who is forced to be strong despite all she lost.

When the girls first met, a chance of friendship between both was so unlikely but as the story progressed, we see how they both help each other not just find a balance between both America and Syria, trauma and healing, but also their deep insecurities and who they are.

This is an informative, explorative YA book featuring the grief and friendship between two very different hijabi Syrian girls. You should definitely check it out(check tw's first)
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LOVE the Arabic definitions included to help guide me through unfamiliar cultures. Great MC. Enough cast to keep it moving without being overwhelming. Serious topics were discussed with care. I found myself rooting for the love story (and I'm not even a sappy person!). Not wholly believable, but still worthy of reading and learning. This is another book that I'll be excited to talk to my students about! 

Overall: 4.5 stars

I'll tell my students about: sex, language, physical violence, death of parent, death of child, suicide, mental health issues

**Thank you to NetGalley and Little Brown Books for Young Readers for the free ARC..  All opinions expressed are my own.**
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Khadija, raised in the U.S. by Syrian parents, lives a privileged life and wants for nothing. Leene, raised in Syria but living in the U.S. with Khadija and her family, has lived through the horrors of war and has lost many family members, including her father and two brothers. Both girls feel a tremendous sense of guilt and a desire to belong more in both worlds. When Khadija and Leene discover that things may not be as they appear, they concoct a plan to try to right some wrongs, and somewhere along the way they start to feel like maybe they do belong. 

I almost didn’t finish this book since Khadija was a total brat in the beginning. She had a strong sense of entitlement, was snotty to Leene, and complained endlessly about her mother’s interference in her life. Once Khadija stopped resenting Leene for being the daughter her mother wanted her to be, the book became more interesting to me. I’m glad I stuck with this book because the literal and emotional journeys that both girls undertook was worth waiting for. 

Recommended for gr. 7-12. 
Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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This one's hard for me to review. Because I did enjoy reading it, I really did. I just can't see myself ever rereading it. It was emotionally draining. The heedless racism our characters faced was infuriating. It's ridiculous that we live in a world where this cycle of hatred perpetuates. This book didn't shy away from addressing that cycle, and it was one of the things that made it so great.

I also loved all of the inter-character relationships. They all felt real. The family dynamics felt like any family. The friendships were just as flawed as any real friendship. I loved the way the family plots ended up resolving themselves. Especially because the ending was left so open. It really felt like life. We won't ever get to know how Khadija's family repaired itself, but we do get to know that they've started the journey towards happiness.

The soul of this one definitely resides in its realness. It was hard to read because of it, but it was a more rewarding book for it. I'd recommend!

Thanks to Netgalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review!
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I really enjoyed this book a lot. Through dual POVs, it tells the story two girls who both have Syrian heritage, but who also have very different lives and experiences. The story gives a natural, honest glimpse into Syrian culture and the different ways it can look for different people. Khadija and Leene have very different personalities, which at times interacts in funny ways. I love the enemies-to-friends vibe of the book, and while there is romance (with a great love interest), I appreciated that the girls' growing friendship was more of a central focus. As a whole, this book really centers around family, friendship, identity, guilt, and grief, and each of these things is handled in a really lovely way. This is a book that will run readers through all of the emotions, from joy and laughter to heartbreak to desperate hope. It also strikes me because Leene and Khadija both have stories similar to so many people in real life. And whether it is a story that you personally relate to or not, I think this story has the power to touch everyone who reads it in a really meaningful way.

What I liked most was that the relationships between all of the characters are complicated and messy, which is real and honest. Instead of simple conflicts with a clear "villain" of the situation who just obviously needs to view things differently, this story presents the many differing yet valid points of view of experiences people within a family can have. A major conflict exists between Khadija and her mother, and even throughout the novel Khadija is able to reflect on her her mother's perspective with genuine compassion without invalidating her own feelings. Not a single character makes perfect choices all the time, because people are messy, and the situations life has put them and their people through are especially messy. I just really appreciated how raw and real this book felt, while still being a fun and enjoyable story.
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This was a fun read! I enjoyed having two main Muslim Hijabi characters, and to have them both represent two different sides of the Syrian story was really beautiful. 

Following Khadija and Leene, I found I enjoyed Leene’s story much more, her pain and following her and her mother’s story back to Syria. Their friendship blooming despite their initial differences was also something beautiful in the story. 

The one thing I had an issue with was the romance. Khadija is a hijabi Muslim girl who boxes at a gym who’s majority is men. I loved that the love interest was Somali, but seeing that they didn’t follow proper Islamic way of engagement and marriage was so disappointing. There’s a scene where he skims her body with his gloves that just threw me off completely and almost made me stop reading. As a hijabi woman, this is not something she should let happen, and I’m not sure why anyone saw fit to keep that scene in the book.

Other than this, it was a very good read and I recommend it!
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Thank you to NetGalley and LBYR for the chance to read and review Shukairy's debut before the publication date! 
To put it plainly, Ream Shukairy is a force of nature. I have been lucky enough to read both of her books, and I can say with utmost passion and confidence that she is one of the most refreshing voices in YA. The Next New Syrian Girl is well thought out, genuine, and unapologetic. It's main characters Khadijah and Leene are seemingly complete opposites- a feisty Syrian-American boxer always at odds with her mother, and a mild mannered Syrian refugee dealing with the ghosts of her pasts. But the friendship and alliance these girls form is so touching and truly goes to show that the bond between Arab Muslim women is such a special one. The Next New Syrian girl is a searing, essential story of sisterhood, individuality, and the reckoning that comes with being away from the country and people that we call home.
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The way the ending made me sob.This book was a masterpiece in itself. I really relayed to Khadijah’s conflicts with her mom and they both had to overcome cultural differences. The author did a really good job in humanizing refugees especially because Westen media loves to dehumanize them. I literally binged the last 40 pages because I had to know what would happen. Tears man.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book had me in tears, both happy and sad, multiple times, which, to me, is the sign of a great book. Disclaimer: I cry very easily, so take that as you will. 

The characters were all well fleshed out and their growth was beautiful to see. I really enjoyed reading and learning about Syria and what it was like before and after the revolution, because what you see on the news these days only captures the after, and the before is also very important to know about. 

All in all, I adored this book.
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Thank you to the publisher for the eARC!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am so glad I requested it.
This story follows two Syrian Muslims, Khadija and Leene, both so different from each other. The former raised in America and the latter a refugee from Syria who's recently lost everyone she loves. At first Khadija seemed very annoying and rude but I later on came to love her quite a lot as I came to know her part of the story. The only thing I didn't like about her was how she said she wouldn't do a certain haram thing just because her mom wouldn't allow it and that bothered me a lot. We, Muslims, should be religious for ourselves and not for others, I didn't like that part regarding Muslim representation. I also loved the complex characters in this book and were interesting to read about like Khadija's mom and Zain. All the people's lives like Leene, Khadija and countless other Syrians were heart-wrenching to read about and I almost cried. There was so much pain laced into this book and I highly recommend it to all. 

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
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Wow . Just a marvel . Still tryna process it but will articulate my thoughts as best as I can 😅.

Two girls , same yet so different  . Torn between the images of being the perfect daughter and a refugee from a war torn country .When they meet ,a friendship slowly sparks between them and they learn they're not that much different from each other . 

Khadija is the no nonsense 18 year old Syrian American  who dreams of escaping her mother's iron control over her life  . She's tired of her mother's nagging to be the perfect Syrian daughter .and her only solace is the gym and her friends Nassima and Younus (who she dates later ,) . Lenne Taher is a Syrian refugee ,just arrived in Detriot with her mother . Her father and brothers are dead ,killed by bombs and shooting . She battled a great many obstacles to arrive in the USA , living in 3  countries. Soon Khadija and Lenne become roommates .Mother  fawns over Lenne dolling her up in Khadija's dresses and comparing the girls  , using Lenne as the poster child of  the perfect Syrian girl ,much to Khadija's resentment . To Lenne ,Khadija is the stereotype of the obnoxious ,entitled American. 

Khadija learns about Lenne's trauamtic past  and the two bond sharing stories of Syria . We learn about the Syria that was before 2011, a Beautiful Ancient Syria thrumming with a 2000 year old history . surrounded by mountains and the sea   and the Syria after 2011 with the rising up against the 50 year old oppressive Al Assad regime , bombings , chemical attacks ,rubble , children orphaned , innocent peopled killed or imprisoned and the perils faced by the millions of refugees to seek better lives ,the discrimation , the seperation ,the language barriers. The Trump's adminstration's  Muslim ban and the apathy towards refugees .

 Khadija learns Lenne's younger brother may be alive and she heads to an orphanage for Syrian children in  Jordan to search for him . Along the way , she finds love ,deeper friendship and the courage to stand up to her mother and khalehs . 

The was a great start to 2023  and its such a heartwarming book of sisterhood , friendships and Syrian culture . A love letter to Syria , her people and strong willed girls who do not want to be boxed under society's expectations .

Rep : Syrian American , Syrian , Muslim American , Hijabs , Arabs , Tunisian American
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