Sheba Karim has done it again! Funny, heartwarming, and achingly real, Mariam Sharma Hits the Road is the road-trip novel everyone needs to be reading right now.
For all of its facing of issues, Mariam Sharma feels like a celebration of being young and on the road with good friends by your side.... A fast read that’s fun, political, and the perfect addition to a summer travel bag.
Mariam Sharma Hits the Road, like all great road trip stories, is about finding adventure, finding surprises, and finding yourself. It’s also so much fun that it’s not until the journey is over that you realize the depth of what you’ve just read.
Mariam, Ghazala, and Umar drive from New Jersey to New Orleans, looking for escape, fun, and togetherness. They find those things, as well as road trip staples, such as junk food and soul-searching, and—because they’re Pakistani-American—prejudice and Islamophobia. Karim (That Thing We Call a Heart) effectively gets at the double difficulty of the characters being seen as outsiders even as their families consider them too assimilated. Beautiful Ghaz’s family disowns her because she appeared in an ad they consider indecent; Umar, who’s gay and a practicing Muslim, can’t imagine a life that allows him to be both. Mariam has a good relationship with her mother, though she wonders whether her commitment issues come from the father she barely knew. But since Mariam and Ghaz are back from their first year at college and Umar is about to start, they at least have each other. With warmth and intimacy, Karim explores the bond among the three protagonists, as well as their individual identity conflicts. The story is focused on the immediate circumstances and concerns; as a result, the characters’ psychological development is modest, yet meaningful. Ages 13–up. (June)
Readers who enjoy a great road trip story and those desiring to read more ‘own voices’ stories will find much to enjoy here.
Gr 9 Up—The past year has brought its share of woes for Mariam Sharma and her best friends, Ghaz and Umar. The remedy? A summer road trip. After their freshman year of college, Mariam, reeling from a recent breakup and in search of answers about her absent father, and Ghaz, who leaves behind a family apoplectic about her foray into modeling, join recent high school grad Umar on his cross-country trip to New Orleans for the Islamic Association of North America convention. High jinks involving pot brownies, mechanical bulls, and karaoke ensue. Ghaz and Umar ooze drama, keeping up witheringly sarcastic, at times raunchy commentary, while introspective Mariam takes it all in. However, like its characters, this breezy, irreverent romp has a deeply thoughtful side. Though devoted to his religion, Umar contends with the knowledge that there are Muslims who see him as a sinner because he is gay, while Ghaz expresses frustration with Islam and anger at her repressive family. Karim offers a nuanced perspective on the road trip novel, centering the experiences of three South Asian American teens who also encounter racism and Islamophobia on their journey of self-discovery. VERDICT This joyously exuberant tale will speak to readers who enjoy a blend of barbed humor and poignant reflection. An excellent choice for all YA shelves.—Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal
Three Pakistani-American teens go on a cathartic summer road trip through the Deep South.Swarthmore sophomore Mariam wants to find the Hindu father who abandoned their family when she was 2. Umar, soon to be entering Cornell, dreads coming out to his high-achieving but homophobic family. NYU student Ghaz is locked up by her conservative parents after posing in her underwear for a billboard ad. The friends break Ghaz out of captivity and drive from New Jersey to an Islamic convention in New Orleans, investigating Mariam's missing father along the way. Told from the perspective of observant, introspective Mariam, this fluidly written novel tackles questions with no easy answers: Can you love Allah and be true to your sexuality? Is it more objectifying to show off your body or submit to strict dress codes? What do you do when a parent abandons you? How do you cope with pervasive Islamophobia as a young Muslim American? The weightier discussions are enlivened by wild adventures at parties and the lewd and occasionally hilarious banter. While major characters are strikingly individual, too many others are painted in broad strokes, including miserly, nosy, patriarchal, and racist desis; trashy or racist Southern whites; and homophobic religious Muslims.In the end, it's hard to root for characters who often lack empathy for those outside their own clique, but this is an entertaining story that examines tough issues. (Fiction. 14-adult)