A Girl Like That

A Girl Like That

A timeless exploration of high-stakes romance, self-discovery, and the lengths we go to love and be loved. Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school.  You don'...

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Title:A Girl Like That
Author:Tanaz Bhathena
Rating:
Edition Language:English

A Girl Like That Reviews

  • Anna Priemaza

    A GIRL LIKE THAT completely blew me away, but be warned: this book will break your heart a thousand times, so that by the time you’re done reading, a thousand and one little heart pieces will be thrumming in your chest cavity like tiny, weeping hummingbirds.

    Abuse. Death. Rape culture. Religion. Bullying. Mental health. Cultural norms. There is so much heaviness in this book, but Tanaz writes about it all with such profound honesty and depth that although you're forced to confront the ugly terri

    A GIRL LIKE THAT completely blew me away, but be warned: this book will break your heart a thousand times, so that by the time you’re done reading, a thousand and one little heart pieces will be thrumming in your chest cavity like tiny, weeping hummingbirds.

    Abuse. Death. Rape culture. Religion. Bullying. Mental health. Cultural norms. There is so much heaviness in this book, but Tanaz writes about it all with such profound honesty and depth that although you're forced to confront the ugly terribleness of it all on every page, you don't feel burdened down with it. Aside from the fact that your heart constantly breaks, of course.

    The book starts with the two main characters already dead, then goes back and tells the story of how it all came to be, so as I read the book, I kept telling myself to not get attached to the characters. “They're going to die; don't get attached” was my mantra. And I failed miserably. Tanaz makes it absolutely impossible to not get attached to these brilliant, complex, flawed but still wonderful characters.

    I am completely in awe of this book, and of Tanaz's ability to craft a complex, riveting, vivid, heartbreaking, terrible, honest story. Do not miss reading this one.

  • Carlie Sorosiak

    completely broke my heart in a million ways, some expected and others not. I was not prepared for the sheer beauty of this writing, which—coupled with the plot—tore me to pieces yet also left me with a profound sense of hope. Every sentence is so carefully constructed, but at the same time, everything feels effortless and smooth. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that

    You will love some of these characters. You will

    completely broke my heart in a million ways, some expected and others not. I was not prepared for the sheer beauty of this writing, which—coupled with the plot—tore me to pieces yet also left me with a profound sense of hope. Every sentence is so carefully constructed, but at the same time, everything feels effortless and smooth. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that

    You will love some of these characters. You will hate some of these characters. But above all, you will form an unbreakable attachment to their complexity and realness. The book begins with a terrible road accident, narrated by two teenagers who are newly dead. You know this from the beginning, and yet Tanaz’s writing is so unbelievably special that I couldn’t help but bond with them, even when I knew their eventual fate.

    and it’s also a difficult one: difficult in that it exposes the reader to a variety of topics (rape culture, religious expectations, domestic abuse) that other writers may not tackle so openly, so courageously, and with such grace. It is shocking and eye opening and honest and so very needed. It’s also an #ownvoices novel, which I especially appreciate.

    I recommend

    without hesitation for any reader who wants to dive head first into a complex tale of love, religion, and culture.

  • Saajid Hosein

    "Hola, can you help me find my weave?"

    - Dora, the shookethed explorer (2018).

  • Korrina  (OwlCrate)

    Phew. That was a book that required 100% of my attention. It wasn't an easy read for me, but definitely a worthwhile one. I feel like this story is really important and will stay with me for a long time.

  • April (Aprilius Maximus)

    More like a 4.5 stars. This was so different from anything I've ever read before. I learnt so much reading it and it really brought out a lot of different emotions in me!

  • Lola  Reviewer

    This is

    , and Zarin is

    .

    It is fantastically refreshing to be reading a YA contemporary story that is not set in North America. Instead, the reader is heading to Saudi Arabia to meet the controversial Zarin who is more than she appears to be.

    Zarin has had a tough life. Her father was a criminal and her mother died when she was still a child. Living with her aunt, who abuses her physically, and her aunt’s husband, who only sometimes defends her,

    This is

    , and Zarin is

    .

    It is fantastically refreshing to be reading a YA contemporary story that is not set in North America. Instead, the reader is heading to Saudi Arabia to meet the controversial Zarin who is more than she appears to be.

    Zarin has had a tough life. Her father was a criminal and her mother died when she was still a child. Living with her aunt, who abuses her physically, and her aunt’s husband, who only sometimes defends her, she does not feel safe. One would say that she is being self-destructive by being involved with guys continuously when she knows she could easily get into trouble with the religious police, but Zarin would tell you that she is compensating for having never grown up with a father and trying to fill as much as she can the emptiness in her heart caused by the lack of love in her life.

    The reason why I am speaking about Zarin’s life and not her death is because this is a story that focuses more on what led to her death than her funeral. In other words, the before is more important than the after. Her story is told from multiple perspectives, herself included.

    This story fascinated me. The fact that I knew Zarin died in a car accident before I even picked the book up, and was reminded of it again in the very first chapter, did not at all temper my interest. Actually, it sparked my curiosity even more intensely. The characters are three-dimensional, seeing that the author does an impressive job of giving them all a back-story and a reason for us to be interested in them.

    What an incredible debut novel. I am eager to see Ms. Bhathena publish more books in the future. Dark themes appear to be her go-to, though, so I’ll admit that I’m also a little apprehensive. I better be prepared to have my heart be shattered once more. Poor heart.

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  • Nenia ✨ Queen of Literary Trash, Protector of Out-of-Print Gems, Khaleesi of Bodice Rippers, Mother of Smut, the Unrepentant, Breaker of Convention ✨ Campbell

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    There were a lot of upcoming titles for 2018 with PoC leads that I was highly anticipating, and Tanaz Bhathena's A GIRL LIKE THAT was one of them. All I knew about it was that it was set in Saudi Arabia(!) and featured a female protagonist who was being slut-shamed for not fitting in with cultural norms, despite other much more interesting aspects of her life, like being an Indian Zoroastrian(!), and both a good student

    a rebel.

    I did no

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    There were a lot of upcoming titles for 2018 with PoC leads that I was highly anticipating, and Tanaz Bhathena's A GIRL LIKE THAT was one of them. All I knew about it was that it was set in Saudi Arabia(!) and featured a female protagonist who was being slut-shamed for not fitting in with cultural norms, despite other much more interesting aspects of her life, like being an Indian Zoroastrian(!), and both a good student

    a rebel.

    I did not read the summary or the reviews very carefully beforehand, so you can imagine my SHOCK when in the first chapter I find that this is like a BEFORE I FALL set in the Middle East: Zarin

    her male friend, Porus, are

    , standing over their bodies in spirit as their friends, family, and the police examine the wreckage and decide where to place the blame.

    The story then goes back and forth in the timeline. We get a better picture of what Zarin was like, and the role her classmates's bullying played in how she ended up. Zarin's parents were both criminals who are now dead, and she lives with an aunt and uncle who only really grudgingly tolerate her presence in their house (her aunt is mentally ill and abuses her physically; her uncle is an enabler who neither seeks his wife help nor gives his niece the protection she needs). Zarin started looking at boys because it made her aunt angry, but after a while it becomes a way to rebel. She chafes at the double-standards in her society that lets men do whatever they want, but dictates that a woman must be held responsible for guarding against unwanted detention. She goes through several boyfriends - two of them are absolute d-bags, the only difference between them is that one plays by society's rules for objectifying women and the other doesn't - and the third loves her and by the end of the story, it's clear that he would do anything for her.

    Obviously, this is a very upsetting story and given the beginning, it's pretty obvious that it isn't going to have a happy ending. There are trigger warnings across the board, because the content in this book runs the gamut of rape, domestic abuse, colorism, racism, mental illness, bullying, slut-shaming, rape culture, and some other stuff that I probably forgot. That said, while this is a book I would never say was "fun" and probably won't ever reread (D:). I would recommend it to pretty much any questing teenager I happened across because the messages it sends are so important. Particularly if you're the type of person who reads stories like these, notices the location, and says to him- or herself, "Whew, I'm glad that type of thing doesn't happen

    (in "my" country)." Then you

    to read this book. Consider it assigned reading on how to be a better human being.

    Here's the thing: the objectification of women and the blaming of the victim is not exclusive to certain regions. It is a global epidemic, and while it might be better or worse in certain regions,

    has it down pat, so in my opinion nobody should read about these issues and walk away feeling smug. We know we live in an unequal society when we hear about a woman who was a victim of sexual assault and one of the first things we ask is, "What was she wearing? What was she doing out late at night?" We know we live in an unfair society when people publish PSAs about how women can avoid being raped when they go out at night - instead of publishing PSAs telling men (or anyone) not to be fucking rapists. We know we live in a society that blames its victims when we hear about bullying incidents and think, "Well, they shouldn't have let it get so bad. They should have reported it to the teacher. Maybe they had something to hide or are doing it for the attention."

    The bullying in A GIRL LIKE THAT is really well done in this book - and I could see some critics saying that nothing the girls did was really that bad... but it doesn't have to be. People who are really successful bullies don't have to throw your shoes on the school roof or even do something ridiculous like hire gang members to beat you up (a shockingly common trope in shoujo manga). All they have to do is get inside your head and make you doubt, question, and hate yourself, and you'll do 90% of the work for them. That's exactly what Zarin's classmates did. They didn't say a whole lot, but they made sure to be consistent in what they said, and eventually she almost started to take it for granted. That's how I was bullied in high school, too. They made cruel remarks specially tailored for me, and me alone, and went out of their way to assure me that everything I did, thought, and liked made me worthless. And, like most of Zarin's teachers, mine were complicit. Either they did nothing, or they participated in it themselves, or they enabled it by punishing or shaming

    instead of the people who were attacking me. My first two years of high school were a special brand of hell, and I had parents who loved me and tried to draw me out. Zarin had absolutely no one, except for Porus, and my heart absolutely ached for that girl, and for everyone else who feels that alone and helpless.

    You should definitely read this book. I'm still shaken by the utter unfairness of the ending.

    4 to 4.5 stars

  • Hiba Sajid

    Bullying, Sexual Abuse, Domestic Abuse

    Zarin Wadia was a 16 year-old Zoroastrian from Mumbai who's living in Jeddah with her aunt and uncle. Her mother was a bar dancer and her father was a underworld Mafia Boss. Bo

    Bullying, Sexual Abuse, Domestic Abuse

    Zarin Wadia was a 16 year-old Zoroastrian from Mumbai who's living in Jeddah with her aunt and uncle. Her mother was a bar dancer and her father was a underworld Mafia Boss. Both of her parents are dead. Her aunt used to hate her mother because of her profession and her marraige and blames Zarin for everything. Her aunt is mentally ill and her uncle doesn't try to protect her. Due to endless tortures abuse inflicted at her home, Zarin become rebellious. She began to date boys and started smoking. First, it was to infuriate her aunt but then it become a way to become something else other then what people tell her to be. She became a target for pupils at school due to her scandals and lies she told them related to ger parents.

    The book open with Zarin and her male friend, Porus being dead in a car crash and what follows is the Zarins's story told through multiple POVs including herself, her only friend Porus, and multiple people who had been in her life. Through there eyes, we see Zarin is not just a cold and rebellious girl everyone thought her to be. She is a victim of child abuse, sexism and sexual abuse who's scared and in trauma. She's like every other girl who's frustrated how this world judges boys and girls differently. She's like any other teenager who is curious about love and sex and just trying to find out more.

    I mostly don't read contemporaries, because they're set in America and Europe and have completely different cultures which are really difficult to relate to. I live in Pakistan, and this book is the closest I've seen myself represented. Well, not the smoking and boys part, certainly not being Zoroastrian part, but the ways of talking and subtle gestures made this really relatable. I've always thought that bullying was something restricted to American school systems because apparently, in East mostly some people don't go around teasing others like that but this book showed differently. Talking about someone behind their back, calling them names, snickering at them behind the books and hands, giving them cool stares, is all too common in my country too. Sometimes, shamefully I've been a part of this too. This book also discusses rape culture and double standards that are so deeply ingraved in our society. I am really glad the author mentioned the example of uncovered and covered lollipops that some people givesin comparison to veiled and unveiled women. That's the most disgusting way women can be objectified. Seriously, I mostly wear niqab, but even I feel very insulted when such examples are made.

    is ultimately a romance, and here is where it looses a star. Porus was Zarin's childhood friend and they came across each other accidently in Jeddah. Porus eventually fell in love with Zarin, and despite Zarin's continous rude behaviour, didn't leave her, claiming that he remembers that sweet 7 year old Zarin from Mumbai and she's just misunderstood. There are so many things wrong with their romance. First off, how can Porus remember Zarin so vividly? He was 10 year old when they last met. I have trouble remembering someone from two years ago.Secondly, Porus almost obsession with Zarin was unhealthy. I understand their friendship, I understand if Porus wants to protect Zarin from the stupid boy she sees, but he leaves his job for her. I mean, I have many reletives living in Saudia so I know it's not easy for person like Porus who is inexperianced to get a job, foreigners have to work extremely hard to get decent income in Saudia. And he's not alone. He has his mother to feed but he leaves everything so he can marry Zarin. And that's definetly not okay. A mother who have take care of you single handedly after your father's death is more important then a girl. I would have enjoyed it more if they were just good friends who care for each other and not star crossed lovers.

    Another thing I don't like in this book was that every other muslim was badly potrayed. It's not suppose to be a happy book, and all characters were really complex, but there wasn't a single good, sane muslim here. Only good character was Porus, and as I explained above, he was just way too good. Other muslim people were Abdullah and Mishal, who were brother and sister, and Farhan, and they were assholes. They were realisticly potrayed, yess, I mean I have came across fair share of stupid men who use religion to disguise their misgony, but it didn't help that there wasn't a single sane, happy muslim character who (a) doesn't want to go into Zarin's pants and (b) were making fun of her.

    Overall, it's a very powerful and very important book that will leave an lasting impact on you. If there were just few good muslim characters and some more good representation of Jeddah, it would have gained a 5 star. I wish I had read it in my school years.I would recommend it to curious and confused teenagers, especially of Eastern heritage.

  • Noor

    This is officially the worst book I’ve read, ever, which is not something I say lightly. It’s a contemporary young adult novel set in Saudi Arabia that’s supposedly meant to bravely expose rape culture, but all it does is expose the author’s own islamophobia and girl-on-girl hate. Now, it’s a subtle islamophobia, and I suppose a subtle hate if you’re not looking for it, and maybe that’s why it’s gone largely unnoticed so far. But if anything, it’s more glaringly harmful for its subtlety. Let me

    This is officially the worst book I’ve read, ever, which is not something I say lightly. It’s a contemporary young adult novel set in Saudi Arabia that’s supposedly meant to bravely expose rape culture, but all it does is expose the author’s own islamophobia and girl-on-girl hate. Now, it’s a subtle islamophobia, and I suppose a subtle hate if you’re not looking for it, and maybe that’s why it’s gone largely unnoticed so far. But if anything, it’s more glaringly harmful for its subtlety. Let me take you on a tour through this novel, across the dozens upon dozens of quotes and bookmarked pages, and maybe I’ll be able to make myself a little more clear.

    Let’s begin with the fact that Tanaz Bhathena clearly did no research when it came to Islam – which is sort of concerning considering she wrote an entire novel set in an Islamic country. Oh, sure, it seems she knows lots when it comes to the religious police, throwing around everyone’s favourite word, Sharia law, but the history? Apparently the accurate portrayal of that is beyond her. She seems to know a wonderful amount about bridges in hell and eternal damnation, but when it comes to common burial practices? No, not possible, sorry.

    Okay, whatever, these are little things, right? Who cares if she doesn’t know that Muslims don’t get buried in coffins or that the three wise men were indeed Zoroastrian priests, that’s not harmful is it? Well, if only it ended there, I could have forgiven this book its shortcomings and moved on with my life.

    Let’s move on to the actual Muslim characters portrayed in the novel, shall we? The main character, Zarin, is Zoroastrian, as is the love interest, Porus. The main Muslim characters you see throughout the novel are 1) the religious police 2) Mishal’s family and 3) Farhan’s family. And as far as fucked up representations go, these three really take the cake.

    The religious police: do I really need to say much about them? It seems pretty self-explanatory. They’re a constant threat lurking throughout the novel – reminders that girls must cover up their hair, that unchaperoned interactions between unrelated boys and girls are Not Allowed (funny, that this is only mentioned when Zarin is with other boys, but never when she’s with Perfect Porus), and… that’s pretty much it. Is there any talk of the Muslims who are oppressed by the religious police for their beliefs? The fact that the religious police don’t follow any religion, and are pretty much one step short of being ISIS? Of course not, that would be an almost… positive and accurate portrayal of Islam wouldn’t it? And we can’t have that, obviously. But, ultimately, the religious police are a background thing – they don’t really take centre stage in this novel. That’s where the two families come in.

    Enter: the two Muslim families closest to the heart of the story. In one, you’ve got a man who abandoned his first wife for a second, because polygamy is a totally common and normal thing (spoiler: it’s not). You have Mishal, a sixteen-year-old girl whose marriage prospects are “limited to creepy grooms nearly twice or thrice [her] age.” (spoiler: this is also not common, despite what every wonderful portrayal of the middle east would have you think). Mishal, whose brother tells her, after his friend attempts to assault her, “Have you learned nothing about men and the necessity of a proper hijab? Or did you want his attention?”. A brother who says that “A woman’s honor is like a tightly wrapped sweet. If you unwrap a sweet and leave it lying around, you expose it to everything out there. If, by accident, it falls into the dirt – tell me, Mishal, will anyone want to eat it?” Mishal, who lives in a society that believes that sex is something that a girl should “[suffer] through like a proper virgin.” (spoiler: also not true). All this, while Abdullah reads porn magazines, smokes, dates multiple girls, and Mishal the prude watches, scandalized. Not to mention the fact that since their father moved out to live with his new wife, he’s legally the “guardian of the household” and this is something that’s not questioned, even once, by anyone. What a great, wonderful, functional family, right? What a fantastically positive portrayal. But it gets worse.

    Farhan’s family is where things start to get properly disgusting. How is it first introduced? Here are the actual first lines of Farhan’s point of view in the entire book, no joke: “They were going at it like dogs, Abba and the maid. My father, who my mother said I would look like when I got older – tall, dark, and handsome – banging the maid so hard that he banged the headboard against the wall and left a mark in the paint.” Yeah, a great start, isn’t it? So aside from a cheating father (because the only two Muslim fathers portrayed in the novel have to be these disgusting men who can’t possibly have a healthy relationship with a single wife, it’s impossible), you have the disgustingness that is Farhan himself. Farhan, who’s most renowned as being the school heartthrob. But unlike your usual YA contemporary heartthrob, because all these characters are Muslim, and thus must be degenerate somehow, right, this one drugs girls to get with them, sexually assaults them, and rapes them. On a regular basis. How wonderful, right?

    Thus ends the part where I talk about how terrible each of these characters are, and we can move on to more of the general horrors that make up this book. If my above description hasn’t been clear enough, I’m just going to say it: you have the female characters portrayed as these sexually repressed individuals, completely lacking agency, while pretty much the only reason any of the male characters (aside from Perfect Porus, who wants to get to know Zarin for who she is, like the great non-Muslim guy he is) live is for sex.

    In general, this book’s obsession with sex is seriously ridiculous. The entire first third of the novel, the only things that happen are that different people have sex, think about having sex, or judge other people for having sex – that is literally it, I’m not exaggerating in the least. Yes, teenagers are hormonal. Yes, they think about having sex a lot. But that is literally the only thing these characters are characterized by. None of the girls have any hobbies, other than gossiping about boys and hating on other girls (and by other girls I mean Zarin). There is not a single healthy girl-girl relationship in the whole book. In fact, the only relationship in the whole book that can actually be termed healthy is the one between Zarin and Porus. Funny, isn’t it?

    There’s a lot more I could go into, honestly – the astonishing relationship between Zarin and her aunt (who started shaming her niece at the age of four for “spreading her legs and sitting like a boy”), the slut-shaming rampant throughout the whole book, the idea that a girl has to bleed when she loses her virginity, the inevitability of arranged marriage for not only Mishal but all the female characters, the objectification of girls for their boobs (seriously, there is a concerning hyperfixation on boobs for some reason, you’d think this was written by a white man because this is almost titting down stairs level boobery), a debate that only seems to show domestic abuse as normalized in this society, and more.

    I can hardly begin to explain how damaging something like this is – a book that’s being lauded as this brave exposure of misogyny and rape culture, but is written in such bad taste. The context of this book makes the whole discussion fraught with damaging implications, and the lack of any good, or positive, or normal characters in the whole book to counterbalance all the shitty ones is really inexcusable.

    In conclusion, this book is cancelled.

    Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.

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