A GIRL LIKE THAT BY TANAZ BHATHENA - BOOK REVIEW

I'm still not 100% sure how I feel about this one yet, so this review might be a bit all over the place as I figure it out. I think I liked it though?

Hello everyone!

I am back with another book review, A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena. Thanks so much to Raincoast Books for sending me an ARC of this book for an honest review, as always all opinions are my own.
This story follows the perspectives of a few characters, but mainly revolves around Zarin, a girl who after the death of her mother when she was a toddler was raised by her aunt and uncle. She's smart, a risk-taker and nothing like what the families of her Saudi Arabian community want their children associating with. Instead of getting to know her, the girls at her school circulate vicious rumours about her romantic life that make her even more intriguing to the boys. Her one true friend, Porus, seems to have eyes only for her, despite her resistance. When the two are found together after a deadly car crash, everyone who crossed Zarin's path begins to question what they really knew about her.

So, going into this book, I didn't really read the synopsis. I mean, I briefly skimmed it months ago when I first got the book, but I didn't really read it again before starting it - it's just not how I like to go into books. BUT I kind of wish I had because I had no idea the two main characters were going to be dead. I don't really have an issue with that per se, but I was a little bit shocked when I found out. It took me a bit to get back into the story after finding that info out.

However, once I got into the groove of the story, it was smoother sailing. The story is told in multiple perspectives, Zarin, Porus, one of the mean girls at school, Mishal, an ex-boyfriend, etc. Typically, I'm not a huge fan of this concept because the voices usually end up blurring together and not really adding that much extra detail to the story that a single or even dual POV would give, but I think that Bhathena handled it really well. There were a couple more minor POVs that were harder to distinguish, but most of them had pretty distinct voices.

I really loved the message behind this book and a lot of the feminist influences. I'm not super familiar with Saudi Arabian or really a non-North American social customs and expectations other than being fairly conservative, so seeing Zarin and a few other characters standing up for themselves was really great. Zarin, despite many people's assumptions, isn't really "a girl like that," but that is just the person they want to label her as. There was also a little bit of important discussion and mentioning of domestic and sexual assault, looking at double standards of the actions of "girls like that" and boys being boys. I really liked these additions to the story and it really helped ground the story in today's world.

I had a little bit of a harder time connecting to Zarin, mainly just because her life is so different from my own. But I don't think that took away from the story, and like any book should, it helped me see a world outside my little bubble.

Also, don't let the cutesy cover fool you, this is a pretty heavy book. There is a hint of romance, but it really deals with death, bullying, assault, abuse, religion, and toxic societal norms. It was really well done, but I think it's worth noting that this book is a lot deeper than it looks from the outside.

Overall, I think I decided that I quite enjoyed this book, even though there were some aspects that threw me off a bit, and I would recommend it.