Title: Bestest. Ramadan. Ever.
Author: Medeia Sharif
Publication Year: 2011
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
Source: Review copy from the publisher
From the cover:
During Ramadan, we’re not allowed to eat from sunrise to sunset, for a whole month. My family does this every year, even though I’ve been to a mosque exactly twice in my fifteen years. My exercise-obsessed mom — whose hotness skipped a generation, sadly — says I could stand to lose a few. But is torture really an acceptable method? I think not.
Things wouldn’t be so bad if I had a boyfriend, but my oppressive parents forbid me to date. This is just cruel and wrong. Especially since Peter, a cute and crushable artist, might be my soul mate. Figures my bestest friend Lisa likes him, too.
To top it off, there’s a new Muslim girl in school who struts around in super-short skirts, commanding every boy’s attention — including Peter’s. How can I get him to notice me? And will I ever feel like a typical American girl?
Okay, first of all … what is up with this cover? Seriously. I’d be ashamed to put my name on it as the “designer” – every single image is from iStockPhoto, and it just looks … well, awful. Aside from the cover, though, the basic concept of this book is what drew me in. Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. has such a different basis from the other books that I’ve found – it’s the only one that focuses specifically on the month of Ramadan.
There are some bits about this book that were really great, and others that I found quite problematic.
Let’s start with the good: I really liked that Almira is a character that adolescent Muslim readers could relate to. I also liked that non-Muslim female readers could likely also relate to her, while also learning a bit more about her and her religion and culture, even if they don’t share it. The family struggles, interactions with friends and other students, the fight for popularity and acceptance of her body … all of these things are universal. One thing that Sharif did really well was creating realistic characters and interactions, particularly the dialogue between the teenagers.
But there’s also the bad: largely, for me, the obsession that Almira has with her appearance and with boys (waaaay over the top), and the almost exclusive focus on the fasting aspect of Ramadan. I can completely understand why a teenager doing her first month-long fast would be largely preoccupied with the lack of food and water throughout the day, but there’s entire other aspects to Ramadan that aren’t about the food. And quite a few of these things were not only completely ignored by Almira’s character, but were actively pursued by her without even a second thought or a mention of how they were things she was supposed to be avoiding. For example, Almira is aware that her forbid her to date, something that she mentions quite often. In one scene, she tucks a piece of chocolate into a backpack pocket for later so that she won’t break her fast. But something she doesn’t mention is that, in that same scene, a boy kisses her – an act that breaks her fast! There are also lots of moments when Almira experiences jealousy, or anger, or when she lies … also things that technically break the fast during Ramadan. It wouldn’t have bothered me so much if it wasn’t so constant, but it happened all the time.
Aside from that, I really enjoyed reading Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. It wasn’t exactly a masterpiece of fantastic literary merit – the writing itself was actually kind of mediocre and repetitive – but it was engaging and interesting, especially for a teenaged reader. I whipped through it in a single day and thought it was a pretty good read. Hopefully you will, too!
You can find other posts in the series by clicking on the image to the right, or by taking a look at the schedule of posts and reviews.