That Thing We Call a Heart

by Sheba Karim

Pakistani American Shabnam Queresh has been estranged from her best friend, Farrah,... read more

Pakistani American Shabnam Queresh has been estranged from her best friend, Farrah, since early in their senior year. When Shabnam falls for free-spirited Jamie the summer before college, she reconnects with Farrah to share her joy: She’s missed her friend. Farrah is clearly underwhelmed by college boy Jamie, but she is far more supportive than Shabnam was of her decision to wear hijab. Shabnam gives herself over to Jamie completely in this achingly honest look at falling hard for the first time. If his fascination with experiences beyond his own sometimes makes her uncomfortable—she’s horrified when his clueless response to a survivor of the Bosnian genocide is “cool!”—he also appreciates the Urdu poetry she shares. She trusts him. She loves him. And she can’t help comparing the warmth and passion between them to her own parents, whose affection is reserved to the point of invisibility. There is a wealth of emotion and experience, culture and history, packed into this novel, and it works beautifully. The characters are complicated and nuanced, from tender, infatuated, self-absorbed Shabnam to steadfast, fiery Farrah to obliviously self- centered Jamie. Shabnam’s parents are fascinating individuals, as is her uncle and other secondary characters. Shabnam’s understanding of and relationship with each of them is singular, growing, and changing throughout a novel in which heartbreak is as inevitable as discovery. (Age 13 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2018

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