Starred review from January 1, 2022
Seniors Salahudin and Noor, both 18, are caught in the throes of life in the small California desert town of Juniper, where being a working-class person of color means being treated differently. With pervasive racism coming from everyone from classmates to police officers and doctors, Juniper is a sinkhole that the estranged best friends are desperate to leave. But instead of worrying about college and his future career prospects, Salahudin is preoccupied with his mother's kidney failure, his father's alcoholism, his family's deteriorating motel, and Noor, who hasn't spoken to him in months. Orphaned Noor's dreams of college are slowly waning; her malicious Pakistani immigrant uncle, who hates all things Pakistani, has made it clear that Noor's future involves working behind the counter of his liquor store. Life was easier when she had Salahudin and his kind mother, Misbah, in her life, but a fight has left her unable to forgive him, at least for now. Chapters alternate between Noor's and Salahudin's perspectives, with snippets of Misbah's past sprinkled throughout. This novel confronts head on the complicated realities of life in a world that is not designed for the oppressed to thrive in. Tahir brilliantly shows how interconnected societal forces shape communities and people's lives through the accumulated impact of circumstances beyond their control: Substance abuse, debt, racism, trauma, and poverty are intricately woven together to tell a deeply moving, intergenerational story. Takes readers on an unforgettable emotional journey. (Fiction. 14-18)
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