Publication date : June 19th, 2018
Publisher : Feiwel and Friends | MacMillan
Genre : Young Adult | Contemporary
Page Count: 336
Synopsis : Lulu Saad doesn’t need your advice, thank you very much. She’s got her three best friends and nothing can stop her from conquering the known world. Sure, for half a minute she thought she’d nearly drowned a cute guy at a party, but he was totally faking it. And fine, yes, she caused a scene during Ramadan. It’s all under control. Ish.
Except maybe this time she’s done a little more damage than she realizes. And if Lulu can’t find her way out of this mess soon, she’ll have to do more than repair friendships, family alliances, and wet clothing. She’ll have to go looking for herself. (From Goodreads)
CW: Dubious consent, sexual assault, racism, underage drinking, drug use, slut shaming, ableist language.
I’ve been absolutely dying to read this book for the longest time so when I saw that Aimee over at Aimee, Always was organising the blog tour, I jumped on the occasion and joined the fun. I read the book as soon as I got it and ended up enjoying it despite a few qualms I had with it.
The writing is fairly simple and yet enjoyable and easy to read, Lulu, the MC’s, voice came through it sharp and clear and I loved that about it. Going into the book, I didn’t know what to expect as the synopsis keeps it pretty vague, when I started reading I didn’t think the story would have a lot of depth to it because it took me a little while to get into it but as I kept on reading I realized I was wrong. Some parts gave me food for thought especially when it came to Lulu exploring her identity and where she fits in two worlds that don’t seem to want nor reject her completely.
Not the Girls You’re looking for is, at its core, a coming of age story. Messy, real and raw. Lulu is trying to find her place on one hand, with her classmates for which she is the muslim kid, and with her relatives on the other hand, who see her as not muslim enough. The cutural disconnection was real, the disconnection from people her age was real. Especially with the story being set in Ramadan (clever choice, in my opinion) where Lulu still went on with her activities as usual but while trying to respect the restrictions that come with the month. And I liked that the message I got out with was that it was okay not to fit completely, and to carve your own space that fits YOU.
Lulu is a biracial Iraqi-American teen with a white christian mom and a muslim Iraqi dad. And she’s so wild and perfectly imperfect. I can’t say I loved her, but I appreciated her, the angst, the sarcasm, the recklessness (because I feel like muslim teens rarely get to have that in fiction). She came off as aggressive and pretentious to most people and I think that a lot of that was due to her lacking that sense of belonging, a defense mecanism if you will. I also appreciated the fact that she was deeply flawed and not particularly religious, as those types of muslim teens tend to be forgotten in narratives eventhough they are not rare.
The main thing I had a problem with is her relationship and interactions with her girl friends. They always seemed to be in conflict with each other and I didn’t really see much support coming from any of them, including Lulu. A lot of the time I wondered why they were friends when they seemed to hate each other, especially when one of them doesn’t respect Lulu’s religious practices, when sometimes they slut shamed each other (and other people) and when they tended to take other people’s words over each others’ and not really trust one another. That took away from my enjoyment of the book but by the end, the way the whole situation was handled showed growth for most of them.
Two type of relationships that I DID like are the siblinghood and the romance. Her banter with her Brothers was lighthearted but real when it needed to be, they weren’t perfect (a pattern in the whole book) but are ultimately there for her at the end. As for her romance with James it was SO CUTE. That boy is adorable, she’s caring, gentle and patient with her. He messes up but owns up to it, apologizes and does better which leads to her opening up to him, a thing that she rarely does.
Not the Girls You’re Looking For is the perfect book if you’re looking for a read that shows just how much teenagehood can be messy and hard, especially for a muslim biracial girl.
Hi Aminah! First of all, thank you so much for writing a Muslim character like Lulu, she’s so flawed yet so real. Her story is the kind many muslim teens have been waiting for.
Oh my goodness, thank you so much, Fadwa! It’s so lovely to be here and I’m so glad you enjoyed reading her story!
Was it a case of “write the kind of story you want to read” for you?
Totally! I had been waiting since I was a teenager for someone to write this book. I was in grad school when I realized nobody was going to write this book but me. The princess had to save herself, so to speak. So I wrote a book about a Muslim girl who was in between cultures and in between childhood and adulthood. I wrote about a reckless girl because I’d never seen a reckless girl who looked like me before, and on some level, just getting to write her was so cathartic.
Not the Girls You’re Looking for is what I’d call a coming of age story about self discovery and messy friendships. Are there any fun facts about it you’d like to share with your readers?
There are lot’s of movie references throughout! I love talking to readers who pick up on them because it’s like we’re part of the same club that loves the same, odd smorgasbord of films. There’s references in the chapter titles and direct references in dialog— particularly to old film stars because I love old film stars. There’s also a couple of Easter eggs, too. See if you can find them all!
Do you have a specific song/playlist that reminds you of the book? If not, do you have any kind of music you like writing to?
I do! I made several playlists on Spotify— nearly one for every character. But since Lulu and her friends were such a driving force of the whole book, a playlist dedicated to their friendship that I called “Girl Gang” is what kept the writing going.
It’s got Adam and the Ant’s “Kings of the Wild Frontier,” which opens with this amazing, lyrical, weird chant and riffs into this banging beat. It’s got Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” because these girls both knew and were trying not to care that they had a bad reputation. I think Joan Jett sings a lot of the best bad girl anthems. “Supermodel” by Jill Solube was my nod to Clueless as I wrote. “Cheap Thrills” by Sia was for Lulu’s love of dancing.
And Aretha Franklin’s “I Say A Little Prayer For You” was my way of taking a love song about romantic love and turning it into a ballad about friendship. Same for the “You and Me Song” by The Wannadees. I think I’ll always love old ’90s girl rock. There’s something so visceral about a guitar riff that I can draw on the feeling it’s trying to evoke so clearly as I write.
I’ll be dropping my other playlists on my Instagram throughout the month! Lulu’s nemesis has a pretty spectacular playlist, if I do say so myself.
Food was such a main part of Not the Girls You’re Looking For (all the deliciousness, reading it made me hungry). What are some of your favourite foods?
Tacos. I freaking love tacos! I’ll always have a soft spot for Tex-Mex, having grown up in Texas.
Kubbeh Mousli, which is essentially just a meat pie, but my grandmother made the best in the whole world. It’s got bulgur dough and lamb and pine nuts and allspice and nutmeg. It tastes like home and Eid and my entire family around a big table. My grandmother never taught me how to make it, so I’ve been trying to re-create the taste for years.
What are some books you’d recommend to people who read and love Not the Girls You’re Looking For?
- Maurene Goo’s The Way You Make Me Feel
- Sarah Enni’s Tell Me Everything
- Zan Romanoff’s Grace and the Fever
- Anything by Melina Marchetta ever
- Amy Spaulding’s The Summer of Jordi Perez
- Emily Wibberly and Austin Siegemund-Broka’s Always Never Yours.
Aminah Mae Safi is a Muslim-American writer who explores art, fiction, feminism, and film. She loves Sofia Coppola movies, Bollywood endings, and the Fast and Furious franchise. She’s the winner of the We Need Diverse Books short story contest. Originally raised in Texas, she now lives in Los Angeles, California, with her partner, a cat bent on world domination, and another cat who’s just here for the snacks. NOT THE GIRLS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR is her first novel.
That’s it until next time.
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.