This is Abdel Fattah's second YA novel. I loved the first one Does My Head Look Big In This? At home she's Jamilah, a Lebanese Muslim, at school she's Jamie an Aussie - blonde. In middle school Jamilah decided to hide her true idenitity at school to avoid the verbal abuse. Now, a sophomore in high school, Jamie can't get too close to her friends, for fear they'll find out the truth.
The author quickly establishes Jamilah/Jamie, as well as the hate based on ethnicity and religion at the school and in Australia. At home Jamilah constantly fight for a little more freedom from her strict dad. I liked Jamilah the most when she was playing in her Arabic school band. She seemed happiest there.
"My darabuka is balanced under my arm and I drum down on the leather top with the palms of my hands, creating a deep, strong rhythm that echoes and reverberates in my chest. I feel a strange sense of calm and exhilaration. The sounds trigger memories of colorful weddings and Lebanese parties and dance floors and live bands and belly dancers. I get lost in the best of the drum. This is where I belong. I think to myself I think to myself. This is who I am."
One day while working in the school computer lab, Jamie befriends another teenager, who goes by Rage Against the Machine. Ten Things I Hate About Me is Jamie online tag. The two slowly become online friends. Jamie feels free to confess her two identities. As the book continues it's pretty easy to guess who Rage Against the Machine is, though knowing didn't take away from this part of the story.
In hiding her identity Jamie's has become a passive, mute girl in school. This attracts the attention of Peter the popular boy, who is quick to put down other students because of their race or religion.
Jamilah/Jamie's worlds collide when her Arabic band is asked to play at a school dance. It was a very strong ending to an enjoyable read. I think with novel's about identity an author must strive for a balance between telling the story and imparting knowledge with a lesson. Sometimes a good story is lesson enough.
There were moments where the authors writing shined through.
"From the moment of her birth God had her heading for that armchair. Some guy in a factory manufactured it with professional care. He put it together, nail-gunned the upholstery over it, wrapped it in plastic and shipped it off for sale. Nobody knew it would land in our living room and hold my mother in her dying moments. It tore her from our lives. I slashed it with a knife when we returned from the funeral."
While reading Ten Things I Hate About Me, I couldn't help but think of Meminger's Shine, Coconut Moon The main character Samar - has not hidden her Indian background though now she is learning about it and embracing it. The two books have the underlining theme of identity.
Check out Ah Yuan's review of Shine Coconut Moon @ Gal Novelty Its worth a look just to read about her crush on Uncle Sandeep.